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Valtteri Bottas Q&A: FW36 will let me show what I can do

27 Mar 2014

Williams looked strong in pre-season testing and their form in Melbourne proved it was no fluke. But for a brush with the Albert Park wall, the team’s rising star Valtteri Bottas may well have been on the podium. Heading into this weekend’s Malaysia round, Bottas has put that incident firmly behind him and is confident of another strong outing at Sepang, where he talked exclusively to…

Q: Valtteri, finishing fifth in Melbourne was not bad - but it could have been a podium. How mad have you been at yourself for that tangle with the wall?

Valtteri Bottas: Mad enough! (laughs) But that’s now behind me. I’ve always been very hard on myself if I make a mistake, as I believe that this is the way to go. You only can improve if you make sure that you learn from your mistakes. But Melbourne is now behind me and I have analysed why it happened.

Q: Melbourne was evidence that the test performance was real - that Williams might turn into the big climbers of the 2014 season. Is that all down to the engine?

VB: Ha… could be. We are definitely working so hard to make it happen and defend - or even improve - our position compared to others. We will see that others will improve over the next couple of weeks, so we have to keep on working to defend where we are. So far we have to be happy as the team has done a great job compared to 2013 - but we also cannot be too satisfied as there are big teams behind us now who will come back quickly.

Q: In 2013 Williams scored five points over the whole season - and now after only one race you have 10 points…

VB: … and the other car didn’t even have the chance to finish the race!

Q: Other than the engine, what has changed to make that happen?

VB: We work fantastically together with Mercedes - it was definitely the right choice to go with them - and the work they’ve done with us was very nice. So yes, the engine is a big part of it, but also the car itself: you still need the grip in the corners from the car in order to be quick. The car has good quality. It was built with good reliability. Finally the pieces are coming together at Williams. We have some new people since last year, coming from different teams - and the change in attitude is much down to (technical chief) Pat Symonds. We are on the right track now.

Q: Has the change in driver line-up also contributed to the sudden rise? With Felipe Massa you have somebody who knows the taste of success - and who eventually wants to taste it again…

VB: Yes, we have a great driver pairing. For me it’s only my second season, so I still have everything to prove in F1, and Felipe was fighting for the championship - that definitely is a good pairing. We both are pushing very hard - he, because he wants that taste of success again, and I, because I want to prove that I have what it takes to get to know that taste.

Q: What does that flash of success do for the team? Occasionally last year there was the impression that some had lost faith that it would ever get better…

VB: I have never lost faith. I always had faith in Williams. Last season Williams were in a position where they didn’t belong. With all the ingredients that the team has - good people, big factory, and an excellent wind tunnel - we should not have been where we were in 2013. So yes, seeing in Melbourne that the car is competitive is a big, big boost. Now everybody is working even harder not to let it slip away again. And to be honest, the Melbourne result could have been much better. But still we were all happy. Finally!

Q: In your rookie year you said that your aim is a title win. That sounded rather hypothetical in 2013 - now it’s starting to look more realistic. How do you see your chances?

VB: Ha, that was the rookie talking. You have to be realistic. Of course the aim is always for the top. At this point of the season Mercedes is too quick. Of course we are trying to catch up and keep improving, but I wouldn’t go that far to think of the title. The key phrase here is ‘getting better’.

Q: But being in your second year you must have an idea how you want your career to develop? What’s the time frame?

VB: I always want more. I know myself. The Melbourne result - even if it was my best result in F1 - makes me crave more. It was not a perfect race, so I want to be more perfect this weekend. The next step must be having a better result - a better race personally - and eventually having a podium.

Q: Other than the argument with the wall, how did you like your race?

VB: To be honest, I really enjoyed it. It probably looked different from the outside, but I definitely enjoyed it. Finally we’ve been able to race. Seeing success at the end of the tunnel!

Q: Could it be that success is addictive - and that when you get some you want more?

VB: Success definitely is addictive. And yes, you always want more.

Q: How important will it be in the next three races - before we head back to Europe - to ‘cash in’ on your good performance and to capitalise on the weaknesses of some other teams?

VB: That will be very important. It’s a bit like ‘take the money and run!’ Right now we have a good, reliable car, so we have to try and get the maximum points, as there are still some of the big teams who have yet to show their true colours.

Q: So it’s a case of ‘the early bird catches the worm’…

VB: Ha, yes, a bit like that.

Q: Your new team mate is an F1 veteran. How has that changed things? Have you profited from somebody with such a long and successful career? Do you watch his each and every move carefully?

VB: You always watch. You would be stupid not to. He is a driver who is important to watch, as there is always something that you could learn. He’s got so much experience and has been in so many situations - different races, different cars, different teams - so it is interesting in the briefings to hear what he’s got to say.

Q: But it’s not the beginning of a wonderful friendship?

VB: Team mates can never be best friends. That’s how it is. We have a good relationship as we both have the same goal and that is to improve the car - and score points. In the way of being best friends is the natural goal of any race driver: to beat your team mate - that’s how it goes.

Q: For Felipe, being released from Ferrari and moving to Williams was seen as a step down, while for you, seeing Williams improve must translate into a move up the ladder…

VB: Well, the car’s speed shows that it is not really a downgrade for him. I think he’s made a good move - and as I just said, I still have everything to prove so cannot really lose. I now have a car that gives me the chance to show what I can do. So let’s see how things go in the near future.

Q: The track here is significantly different to Melbourne. Is that a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down for this weekend?

VB: Definitely thumbs-up.

Q: Better than Melbourne?

VB: I would not say better, but there is no reason we shouldn’t be as strong as in Melbourne. We are expecting a weekend with a fight for many good points - hopefully even a podium.