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Valtteri Bottas Q&A: We will do everything to challenge Mercedes

05 Feb 2015

The 2014 season was a special one for Valtteri Bottas - not only did the talented Finn notch up his first F1 podium finish (and five more to boot), he also proved a consistent threat to the dominant Mercedes duo, eventually finishing an impressive fourth in the drivers’ standings. In an exclusive interview with Formula1.com, Bottas discusses reprising his fight with the Silver Arrows in 2015, Williams’ pre-season form, the prospect of winning his first Grand Prix, and rumoured interest from Ferrari…

Q: Valtteri, what can you say about your new machine right now? Williams had a miraculous season in 2014, so is 2015 the miracle part two?
Valtteri Bottas:
Ha, why not? I can say it is a very good starting point for us right now. The car has been reliable and felt pretty good. Sure there is still a long way to go, but I am sure that goes for everybody up and down the pit lane. Our plan is to draw in a better result than last year. So a miracle? Actually not really; more building on what we’ve achieved last year. So my feeling right now is positive about the season.

Q: Thinking back to this time last year, did you already know back then that in 2014 Williams could make it big, and if you knew back then, do you know now that it could be even better this year?
VB:
Well, last year was pretty hard to see where we were at the same test. 2013 was a dreadful season, so of course you hope to hit it big when the changes are so massive - that you are the ones who get it right - but you couldn’t pin these hopes down to anything. Now the car is pretty similar, but a bit improved. It is hard to say where that puts us compared to the others - how much they have improved over the winter - so the first couple of races will show a clearer picture. My gut feeling is that it’s going to be a good year. I am pretty upbeat because I see that they are making the right calls in this team. 

Q: Being marked as one of the only real challengers to the two Mercedes guys this season: how does that feel?
VB:
I do enjoy that. We are a racing team and we want to win races, and right now I feel it’s a good place to be. When people say that they believe that we are the main challengers to Mercedes, that’s really cool. We will do everything to give them a hard time!

Q: If that scenario really happens it would mean winning races…
VB:
Yes! But we never underestimate other competitors. Red Bull sure will be strong, Ferrari as well. McLaren is a question mark because of their new engine, so I have a feeling that we will see a much tighter season this year. 

Q: If you could choose, at which race would you want to record your first win?
VB:
Maybe Budapest. Budapest in Finland is known as the ‘Finnish Grand Prix’. There are always so many Finns in Budapest. Finns flock into Budapest in huge numbers - that would be really cool. But I also wouldn’t mind scoring my first win at the first race.

Q: Pat Symonds, who has worked with Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, said that he sees that ‘champion gene’ in you; that you, like the three mentioned, would never allow the thought of not becoming champion; that this trait is very strong in you…
VB:
That is so. It is my target to be champion one day. The sooner the better.

Q: Everybody sitting in an F1 cockpit wants to be a champion one day, but Pat sees that desire as being stronger in you than in most other drivers...
VB:
These are very encouraging words from him. Yes, it is my target, and I will do anything I can to make it come true one day. What I think helps on the way is, of course, working very hard, but also being honest to yourself and staying humble.

Q: Pat also said that Williams have achieved the maximum with their budget, but to move forward more funds are necessary. Could that be an obstacle? Do you see any shortcomings in development?
VB:
Not really. Last year we had a much smaller budget than the teams we went against and we could nearly challenge for the wins. Now we are in a better situation from this aspect, so my guess is that we can be even closer. We just have to see we spend our budget wisely - and I am sure that is the case - so no, no worries.

Q: For F1 insiders you are the hottest commodity on the driver market. For 2015 you are with Williams, but surely other teams must have already knocked at your door?
VB:
I don’t know if there is (interest). Maybe this is a question for my management…

Q: Could the colour red also be tempting to you? Kimi Raikkonen’s contract at Ferrari is believed to expire at the end of the season…
VB:
I don’t know anything about Kimi’s contract. All I know is that I want to be in the quickest car available. That’s all I can say.

Q: If you could draw a picture of your 2015 season, how would it look?
VB:
If we could start the season at the level we finished last year that would be really good. I know that we are capable of still improving a lot, so if we could start at a good level I would be happy at the beginning of the season to fight for podiums - and then later on challenge for wins. 

Q: Does somebody as ‘humble’ and down to earth as you are have any fancy dreams?
VB:
There are always some dreams, but actually I am living in the real world. Probably that first win. (laughs)

Q: And then another one, and another one…
VB:
Ha, yes, that’s how it goes with me.