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Rookie diary - with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas 04 Jun 2013

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 17 March 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams and Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams Third Driver with his girlfriend Emilia Pikkarainen (FIN) Olympic swimmer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Friday, 24 May 2013

From Keke Rosberg to Kimi Raikkonen, in the last 30 years Finland has become somewhat renowned for producing Formula One champions. The latest ‘Flying Finn’ tipped for the top is Valtteri Bottas, the 23-year-old Williams rookie mentored by his country's other world champion, Mika Hakkinen. In the latest of our series charting the personal and professional progress of this year’s F1 newcomers, Bottas reflects on his debut season so far and why dealing with pressure isn’t an issue…

“We’re six races into my debut season already. It’s flown by very fast - faster than all my past years in racing. Just think about the back-to-back races at the start of the season - you almost don’t get out of the car. The only time the job slows down a bit is when you are flying between races.

“I am enjoying my rookie season very much. The car has not been as quick as we hoped, but that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm. In any circumstance you want to do your best, no matter how good the car is. Sure, it’s been a tough start, but that only inspires you to work harder.

“My personal highlight so far was Melbourne as it was my first F1 race. The race weekend itself - and then sitting on the grid - I will never forget that! When it came to Malaysia I felt much more comfortable as I knew that I’d done it before.

“I haven’t had any problems with pressure. It is me who really wants to do well - to be the best one day - so the pressure comes from within me. Of course, it is great if other people also expect a lot from me as it shows that they have confidence in my skills. But no, pressure is not an issue - perhaps it’s because I’m Finnish.

“I knew that it would not be easy to break into F1, of course. But I always tried to think positively and believe that it would be possible for me. I always believed in myself - that’s probably why it happened. The chances of getting to F1 are pretty slim when you see that you only have 22 drivers - and hundreds of aspiring youngsters in so many lower categories whose only aim it is to make it to the F1 grid. And yes, it helps to be in the right place at the right time! There was never a time when I doubted I’d make it.

“I am very pleased with how things have gone in terms of my transition from test driver to race driver. Being the third man was a good platform to improve and develop, especially when I got the Friday running last year. That was a perfect preparation for my debut season. I have to give big thanks to Williams for making it possible as I felt really ready to race in Melbourne.

“I think that, as a team, Williams see the talent in me; that I really can be something very good in the future. In the years I’ve been with Williams I’ve developed hugely - and of course I have inhaled the team culture.

“I think my performances relative to Pastor (Maldonado) have been pretty good. Pastor is experienced - it’s already his third year at Williams - and I would say that I match him more-or-less. I can’t really point at one particular thing that I’ve learned from him, but of course you pick up things, especially at a track like Monaco that I didn’t know before this season. I was reading his data very carefully to see how he was doing it.

“The race distance is the toughest thing to adapt to in F1. The race is so much longer (than in other categories) so you have to have a different approach. In Formula Renault, in GP3 and GP2 you can just push flat out because the race is so short, but in F1 you need to be cleverer. You need to think about the tyres, you need to be cleverer with the strategy, and you have a much bigger responsibility because of the sheer size of the team.

“My girlfriend - an Olympic swimmer - has been to several races with me. She understands the demands of top-level sport and I think that’s an advantage. She is also very active in her career and is also aiming for the top, so she understands that you have to make sacrifices to get there.

“I use sport as my stress reliever. I do enjoy training as it takes the tension out of me. Obviously I do swimming, and of course running and cycling - the typical F1 driver fitness programme. The weekend before Monaco I went clay pigeon shooting in the British countryside - that was really great to sharpen your eyes and enhance your reactions. On top of everything else, it was nice.

“In terms of the rest of the season, I have set a target for myself to improve as much as I can as a driver; to get better in the races and to give better feedback on the car. We have a lot of work to do together but there is no doubt in my mind that the results will come.

“The most enjoyable thing about being an F1 driver is that I get to drive against the best drivers in the world in the fastest and most advanced cars on earth. That is always what I wanted to do. There are other benefits to the job though. In Monaco the traffic officers didn’t want to let me through on my scooter, but the moment they realised I was an F1 driver it suddenly wasn’t a problem!”

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