Valtteri Bottas’ Formula One career has not always been plain sailing. After two seasons as a test driver, he struggled in his 19 races in 2013, winning just four points and finishing 17th. It was a tough introduction to the sport, but one that helped to shape both his career and his character.
Four years on, and Bottas is third in the drivers’ championship with one race left in the season. 2017 has seen him win a race for the first time in his career, and alongside Lewis Hamilton, he has helped Mercedes win a fourth consecutive constructors’ championship. For a man still making his name in the sport, it has been a fantastically successful season.
Indeed you can see from Bottas’ demeanour that he is thrilled to be in the position he is. Now 28, and with 22 years of racing experience under his belt, Bottas still has a childlike excitement about racing. While he has tailed off somewhat in the second half of the season, after impressive victories in Russia and Austria, the Finn remains upbeat about his year in an interview with Cherwell.
“It was a big step,” he says of the transition from his old constructor Williams to racing alongside Hamilton at Mercedes, “but in the way that moving between teams always is.” The Finn has taken the move in his stride, and was full of praise for his new teammate.
However, while Bottas remains successful, there is an idea floating around that Formula One is struggling. Whilst viewing figures are increasing, races are becoming more and more predictable and there is a temptation to reminisce with nostalgia about the days of
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, when crashes were commonplace and each grand prix promised a weekend filled with excitement.
But Bottas disputes this claim. “Time goldens the memory,” he told Cherwell, before praising the sport’s administrators for the recent safety measured they have proposed.
“The crash tests have been made tougher and tougher,” he says. Unlike Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Bottas has been quick to praise the decision to implement the ‘halo’ cockpit protection system, which will come into place from 2018: “If it can save any injury at all, it is definitely a good thing.”
He is quick to underline the fact that every time drivers jump into the car, they are risking their lives, and yet “we still give it our all” – while Formula One racing has been Bottas’ dream from a young age, he is still acutely aware of the safety implications that his career has.
Bottas follows in a rich tradition of drivers from his country, but his lively sense of humour could hardly contrast more sharply with his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen’s notoriously deadpan approach.
In essence, the Finn loves the thrill of racing, and criticises modern tracks – which he describes as “massive carparks with painted lines” – in comparison to old-style tracks like Suzuka in Japan.
Bottas’ tenacity, ambition and fearlessness are clear for all to see. If he can continue making the progress that he has managed over the past few years, it would not be surprising to see him consistently at the front of the grid in the years to come.