Sustaining a strong relationship can be difficult for elite athletes, but Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport driver Valtteri Bottas hails his marriage for helping to accelerate his rise through the sport.

Valtteri Bottas seized his first victory at the Russian Grand Prix in April 2017 and has quickly established a positive partnership with four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

But the Finnish driver, who first began karting at just six, also credits his wife of two years, Emilia, 26, for helping guide his relentless focus.

He says: “When you have had a difficult moment, she has always been understanding, knowing that you need to make sacrifices if you want to succeed.”

Emilia is a three-time Olympic swimmer, who competed for Finland in Beijing, London and Rio in the butterfly events and still holds the Finnish record for 50 metres. The pair married in September 2016.

In a new interview for the exclusive UBS series, The Decision, Bottas, 28, also recalls discovering his other passion. “I fell in love with speed immediately,” he says of his first laps in a go-kart.

Valtteri and Emilia Bottas, 2018

“My parents supported me because they could see the smile on my face when I jumped out of the car after doing a few laps – and that was it – I wanted to be a Formula One driver!” says Bottas, whose father owns a small cleaning company and whose mother is an undertaker.

He also reveals how he struggled after entering the Finnish Championship, the highest championship level in the country, as a young driver. “I had a really bad season, I was so annoyed that I wasn’t winning anymore.”

“I changed my mentality completely and that was the point I decided I wanted to make a living out of this and that, if I really want to meet my targets in my career – I need to work harder for it, and so I did!”

Amusingly, those goals were also reflected in the name of the family dog, Rubens Barrichello, who was named after the Brazilian driver, who drove for 18 years in F1.

Valtteri Bottas, 2017, Malaysia

After being elevated to the Mercedes team following the surprise retirement of Nico Rosberg, Bottas describes early 2017 as being “a really interesting winter.”

“It was a great opportunity for my career and I made it very clear that was what I wanted to do,” he adds.

He has since formed a strong bond with new team-mate Lewis Hamilton, one of the greatest racing drivers in history, who he describes as “massively quick.” Providing extra motivation for him, it is a partnership that he has only ever seen as an opportunity, he says.

“I always knew it was going to be a challenge, but there are so many lessons I’ve learnt during the year.”

Concluding his conversation with the sports journalist, James Allen, Bottas says his first advice to youngsters is: “Believe in yourself – if you don’t no one else will.”