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Valtteri Bottas Q&A: Plenty of podium chances remaining

17 Sep 2015

Few expected Williams’ rising star Valtteri Bottas to be outshone by veteran team mate Felipe Massa this season, but on paper at least, that is what’s happened so far. Is Bottas happy? Definitely not. Can he help turn the tables by scoring his first Singapore points this weekend? A definite possibility says the Finn. In fact he’s confident that with seven 2015 rounds remaining, there is still ample opportunity to move up the standings. We caught up with Bottas for an exclusive chat at Marina Bay to find out more…

Q: Valtteri, it is now official that you will stay with Williams next year - what is the beauty of that?

Valtteri Bottas: Ha, the beauty of staying is continuity! I know this team very well. I started at this team as test driver in 2010 and that is a pretty long time for somebody my age. It is a great place to be. It is like a family and I have still a good time to go, as I am certainly not at the peak yet.

Q: Speaking of family, Williams is very much a family team, whereas Ferrari - whom the media linked you to for next season - is very much about emotion and drama. Do you think you would have been ready for that culture shock?

VB: Ha, you never know until you’ve tried! (laughs) Never say never until you’ve had a taste of it. And I never fill my head with things that are not reality…

Q: …and maybe your laidback Finnish nature would have helped you overcome any ‘dramas’…

VB: …yes, maybe.

Q: Williams’ technical chief Pat Symonds thought that the uncertainty surrounding your future was irritating you - even if you did not want to admit it. He said that he has seen symptoms before. Now that everything is clear, was it so?

VB: To be honest, he warned me about it - as he has seen it before. I was aware that you will run into ‘situations’ if things are not really secure and rumours are up in the air around you. Yes, it is true that if you go into a race weekend you don’t want to have anything occupying your thoughts. So it was definitely not ideal, but on the other hand I definitely did my best in trying to not let any negative effects come up. I personally do not think that it really affected me, but probably things were clearer from the outside.

Q: Pat said he had seen it to a certain degree when Michael Schumacher moved from Benetton to Ferrari, and when Fernando Alonso went from Renault to McLaren - so he knew what he was seeing…

VB: The whole situation sure did not help.

Q: Your management has links to Mercedes. Why would they want to let one of the most promising F1 talents move to ‘the competition’?

VB: Ha, because they are my managers! They have to do their jobs as my managers.

Q: So you don’t think there was any conflict of interest?

VB: I don’t think so. I am very open with my management. We always talk things over and I clearly have the impression that they want the best for me so that I achieve my goals.

Q: Could it be that you are earmarked for the next free Mercedes cockpit as soon as one becomes available? Maybe in 2017…

VB: I don’t know. You have to ask the persons in charge. My focus is on this season and on next season - after that everything is still open.

Q: You and many of your colleagues live seemingly quiet lives outside of races - and then there is the ‘not so average’ Lewis Hamilton, travelling the globe as if there is no tomorrow. Are you surprised that he can perform the way he does with that kind of lifestyle?

VB: All I can say is that different things work for different people. Yes, I do live a quiet life outside racing - the race weekend is already busy enough and outside of it I try to recharge my batteries and do what I think is best for my career. I am thinking long term - I am still pretty young so I want to have the energy to go for many, many years! But as I just said, different things can work for different people. Definitely that hectic lifestyle is not for me - but obviously it works very well for Lewis.

Q: What are you doing when you are not racing?

VB: I love sports. I love to do normal things. I try to minimize the travel, as the race calendar is already demanding in terms of travelling…

Q: …and we will not see you sitting in the front row of fashion shows?

VB: Very unlikely. I do go to Finland quite a lot. I reside in Monaco, but go to Finland quite frequently to see my family. As I said, I do very normal things.

Q: Right now your team mate Felipe is pipping you by six points in the standings. That cannot have been the plan…

VB: Definitely not. I am definitely not happy with how the last five races have been. Luck has not really been on my side. I had brake problems in Austria, then I had my Silverstone experience, then came the puncture in Budapest, then the pit stop problem in Spa. So overall it has not been great. And I lost points in the first race with my back injury - overall it has not been my season so far. It can only get better!

Q: Is the thought that ‘it has not been your season so far’ affecting you in any way? Is it keeping you awake at night?

VB: No. I can switch off quite fast after a race. Sure, a disappointing weekend doesn’t make you happy for a while, but you need to reset and focus on the next race. I think I am very good at that. You have to learn to channel unhappy moments into energy.

Q: But does the question ‘Why me?’ spin in your head when things keep going wrong for you?

VB: Sometimes. But mostly it is just bad luck. There are two kinds of bad luck: one which you cause, and one that is completely out of your reach. So it is better that you move straight to the next race before you get lost in self-destruction.

Q: Sixth in the standings - is that good enough for you?

VB: No, it is not good enough. And, yes, it is possible to move up places. That is the goal.

Q: Last season you had six podium finishes. So far you’ve had one this year. Will that change?

VB: Yes, as there are plenty of opportunities ahead. There are many good tracks for us in the next few weeks, like Japan, Russia and the US. Even Abu Dhabi looked pretty neat for us last year. So opportunities are definitely there in the last six races.

Q: There is talk that Williams are hoping to get the new-spec Mercedes engine that Lewis won with in Monza…

VB: Ha, I honestly hope that we get a good engine. I completely trust Mercedes in that matter.

Q: So you don’t get the impression that on the one hand there is the works team and on the other hand the customer teams?

VB: I do not think so. I am sure they wouldn’t do that.

Q: Singapore has been a difficult track for you in the past. Why - and will that change this weekend?

VB: I hope it will change, definitely. Last year I was on course for some points, but then was caught in a very long stint and the tyres were worn out completely - so no points. Actually no points for me here at all so far! So it is time to start. We have some new parts on the car - some bits on the front wing, those kinds of things for a bit more downforce as this is what you need here. Actually I really like the track here.

Q: So what result do you need to make peace with this circuit?

VB: A win! But I would also be happy with some solid points. So the hierarchy is: win, podium or good points. (laughs)