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Valterri Bottas Q&A: Much more to come from Williams

06 Nov 2014

Everyone knew Valtteri Bottas was good - and this season he has finally had to the car to prove exactly how good. Two front-row grid slots and five podium finishes have helped propel the Finn to fourth in the standings, ahead of the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, as well as his far more experienced Williams team mate Felipe Massa. So how does it feel to have ‘made it’, and where does he go from here? We caught up with Bottas in Brazil to find out…

Q: Valterri, how much have you surprised yourself this season? What was the most you expected for the year when you started out in Australia?Valterri Bottas: I am not that surprised by myself. I always knew that if we had a good car then I can fight for good results and bring a lot of points to the team. So no, I am not surprised about myself. But for us as a team, yes, when thinking of where we were last year it’s a real nice and positive surprise what a difference a year can make. (laughs)

Q: In 2013 you were considered a talent, but now you are a serious podium contender. How have you acclimatized to your rise up the pecking order?
VB:
It’s a bit strange to be honest. You always dream of fighting for good results and even fighting for wins, and the ultimate goal is of course to be up there. And to really make it - being on the podium many times - yes, that’s been amazing. It is a bit hard to digest, but it feels fantastic. I don’t mind having to digest these kinds of things! And I want to keep on and on…

Q: Now the Finns have another hero to cheer for, in addition to Kimi Raikkonen. Are there now rival fans?
VB:
Ha, there is no fight. We are both doing our thing- and we are pretty different in personalities. And don’t forget Kimi is a world champion. Yes, he’s had a tough year, but I am sure he will be back. So there is also no fight between us. I am just happy to bring good results to Finland!

Q: Would you consider yourself lucky, in terms of being in the right place at the right time? In recent years a Williams seat has not been so kind to a driver’s career…
VB:
Yes, I do realize that you also need to be in the right place at the right time. But I’ve also always had a lot of faith in Williams, as it has been at the top many times and there was no reason why it couldn’t be again. We have been working very hard for this - which explains why we are now going in this successful direction.

Q: Some drivers just fit with certain teams - what is it about you and Williams and you? What’s the chemistry?
VB:
The special relationship: everyone wants to get good results - is hungry for good results. After that tough 2013 season, when finally results started to come our way this year it gave everyone so much motivation that it feels like a different team now. Success does make a difference! It’s probably really a question of mentality: right now everybody wants to do really well, wants to win. That is what makes us closer - and ultimately successful.

Q: But all the previous drivers wanted to win with the team, but it simply didn’t happen. Why now with you? Are Finns better drivers?
VB:
Ha, you’d have to ask the team. But my approach was always that Formula One is 100 percent a team sport - and probably it’s that mentality that helps. Every single individual in the team should be equal - from the guy in the cockpit to the guy on the factory gate - because everyone matters in a team success.

Q: From last year to this year, what has made the biggest difference? True, Mercedes’ is the best engine, but without a good car that is not enough…
VB:
The biggest difference is the efficiency of the team - factory and race team alike - and how the race team communicates with the factory for the development work. Since Pat (Symonds) arrived he’s changed a lot of things. He brought in new people and the team generally is more efficient. One example: every single update that we’ve brought to the car this year worked well. Last year we brought so many more updates, more new parts, but 50 percent didn’t work. So clearly we are doing the right thing.

Q: Your team mate Felipe Massa is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid. He has witnessed how Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso work with a team. How much difference did his input make, and can a driver nowadays still make a real difference in setting development directions?
VB:
I think a driver still can make a big difference and impact. It is mainly down to how good the feedback is and how much you are able to go into details about the car’s behaviour. There are still some things in driving a Formula One car - the feeling that you have - that you cannot measure and cannot see on the data computer. Feelings you cannot make visible. That is where the driver comes in.

Q: In recent decades we’ve seen a number of F1 champions from Finland - a country not particularly known for its single-seater heritage - and, for example, none from Italy. Why is that?
VB:
I have also wondered about that. My theory is that it starts in go-karting. The level there is really high. When I started at the age of six the level of competition was really good. There were a lot of good drivers and to win was definitely hard work for me. I had to push very hard to do well in the national series. Probably it’s also the mentality. Ours is maybe good for Formula One, as we don’t get overly stressed about anything - and that is definitely helpful in this Formula One world.

Q: Williams will head into 2015 with the same driver line-up. Are you ready to fight for the title next season?
VB:
I hope so. That’s the target. It’s not going to be easy, of course, but we’ve made a big leap forward from P9 in 2013 to P3 now, and we aim to make another step forward. We are not at the peak right now - there is still much more to come - and why not reach the peak next year? It will not be easy - and there is no rush - but I am definitely ready when the ‘call’ comes!