Valtteri Bottas is considered one of the rising stars of Formula 1. And rightly so; in 2014, only his second season in the sport, Finn secured six pitches and finished fourth in the drivers’ championship, overtaking his more experienced teammate Felipe Massa.
Bottas ‘revolutionary season contributed significantly to the resurgence of the Williams F1 team, which saw them finish third in the constructors’ championship; their best result since second place in 2003.
The 2015 campaign, however, has not yet started with that clear potential of a Mercedes-powered FW37 would suggest: Bottas failed to start the Australian Grand Prix after injecting his back in qualifying, and he and his teammate Massa found his race pace without the scorching heat of Malaysia.
I only spoke to Finn about his rise to Formula 1 and his expectations for the year ahead.
EH: You first got behind the wheel of a kart at the tender age of five, but your interest started a year earlier when, together with your father, you discovered a kart race during the summer. Can you tell me about that day and then about your first experience in the next year?
DP: Well, that day, I was going to Lahti (a city in Finland) with my father and we saw a sign on the Finnish go-kart championship race. We only went to have a look, none of us knew the sport. When I saw it for the first time I thought it was really nice and I wanted to come in to try one! My first time in which I tried a go-kart was about a year later, I was around 5-6 years old and actually I crashed in the first corner of the first lap, I didn’t use the brakes and I went to the barrier. Nobody actually explained how it worked and they just said “Off you go”! That day, I learned from my mistake.
EH: In 2008 you won both the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup championships. It’s a huge accomplishment, you must have been very proud of your efforts that year. How difficult was it to compete in two leagues?
DP: It has been an important and difficult year, given that I have had many races between two different leagues. (But I needed it) to get support to move to Formula 3. But overall it was nice to get as much mileage as possible, the season went really well and I won both championships. That’s how I started working with my management (Mika Häkkinen, Didier Coton and Toto Wolff), so it was important to show them the good results!
EH: Last year you had a really impressive season with six pods, including your first Formula 1 podium at the Austrian Grand Prix on an unknown track. Can you express in words how you felt and what thoughts went through your head on the last lap, knowing that you were missing a few seconds to get your first podium?
DP: Austria was a very special moment, we had been chasing the podium for a long time and the last lap, even if you never had to plan before crossing the finish line, I started thinking (since there is ; it was enough margin in front and behind) how nice it would be to cross the line, get on the podium and meet my team when I come back, as the whole team worked hard to get good results. The podium was very special, to see everyone there, it was a really beautiful day that I will always remember.
EH: Last year Formula 1 veteran Felipe Massa joined the Williams team to replace Maldonado. What did you learn from his experience and knowledge of the sport and how did he feel about beating your most skilled teammate in your second year alone?
DP: My experience as a teammate of Felipe has been very positive; obviously he has a lot of experience, he has been in different situations, car set-ups, different conditions, tracks. It was nice to work with him even though, as a driver, my goal is to be faster than my teammate (whoever he is) and get more points.
EH: For a long time the Williams team appeared in the races of “No Man & # 39; s Land”, but 2014 saw a dramatic change of luck for the team. What do you think were the main factors that contributed to this extraordinary change for the team?
DP: I think the arrival of (Chief Technical Officer) Pat Symonds has made a big difference since he joined the team in mid 2013. He is reallocating people to the factory, bringing new people to the team. Now we have the right people in the right positions and this has certainly brought back the results. Another important contributing factor is the switch to Mercedes-Benz power units.
EH: For a country with a relatively small population, Finland has delivered three Formula 1 world championships (and perhaps soon a quarter). What is it in your home country that produces so many world-class drivers in racing and rallies?
DP: First of all, Finland is a country of motor sports, it is part of our culture – we love F1 and rally and it is true that there are some excellent drivers from our country. Furthermore, the level of go-karting (at a young age) is very high, so this could also explain it. The mentality of the Finns is also good for sport, we can stay focused and not stress too much, which is very important in F1 in my opinion.
EH: What are your first memories of following Formula 1 as a child and which driver did you most enjoy watching the race?
DP: The first car I remember is the blue and yellow Williams, my favorite in the beginning. A race that stands out as a race is Mika Häkkinen’s first win in Jerez in 1997! I remember this race very clearly.
EH: After your most successful Formula 1 year to date in 2014, what are your expectations for 2015?
DP: In 2015, the competition will be much closer between the teams.