Bottas is in his second season racing for Mercedes
Formula 1’s newest race winner discusses life in the most successful team in the sport and dealing with Lewis Hamilton as a team-mate
Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas is proof that you need to watch out for the quiet ones.
Between his flat-out on-track jousts with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen, Bottas prefers to turn his back on the trappings of fame, the invitations to yacht parties in his second home of Monaco and the ultra-cool society scene that is heartily embraced by his Mercedes-AMG team-mate Hamilton.
Instead, F1’s newest race winner prefers to head to a lake house near his family home in Nastola in southern Finland, where he relaxes and gathers his thoughts in preparation for the next mind-bending psychological maelstrom of a grand prix weekend.
“In that way we are opposites,” says the 27-year-old when asked about the contrasts between himself and Hamilton. “[In between races] I love going back to Finland and seeing nobody for a few days. But I don’t mind at all; everyone is different and has their own way in which they want to live. For me it is a bit more quiet.”
He’s noticed an uplift in attention in Finland since his breakthrough first career victory in Russia in April – “the Finns only really love winners”, he says, acknowledging his record of 78 races and no wins with Williams prior to joining Mercedes-AMG – but in general he’s comfortable with his under-the-radar status. It’s a way of life for most Finns. “I think in general we don’t like to make a lot of noise about ourselves. We keep it low,” he says.
There’s clearly merit in each of the contrasting approaches to the sport embraced by Hamilton and Bottas. The Briton has three wins to his credit this year, while Bottas followed up his Russian breakthrough in April with a superlative drive to glory in Austria last weekend. Ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix he is just 15 points behind his triple world champion team-mate in the standings.
So how is Bottas enjoying his working relationship with one of the sport’s superstars?
“It’s very neutral and very professional,” he says. “As soon as I started on day one we had good respect both ways. We have been able to really work together and share all the information. That is the way to go for the good spirit in the team and it allows both of us to really help the team.
“Of course we’re going to battle hard on the track – we still haven’t had proper battles on track, but I’m sure there will be some. But I’m sure we can always keep certain things on the track, like team-mates should.”
One trait both men share is a single-minded determination to be the best. Like Hamilton, Bottas has been immersed in racing for most of his life, beginning in karting when he was six. He also honed his car control by haring around the gravel tracks of his grandparents house in the family Talbot, but unlike many of his compatriots, rallying was never his priority.
“I always wanted to be a Formula 1 driver. I’ve tried rallying a little bit. It was very good. It’s good fun and very different, but for me it was always about Formula 1,” says Bottas. “When I was kid I always tried to drive anything, whatever it was – snowmobile, quad bike, motorbike or whatever. I loved it – anything with an engine.”
Later, he studied to be a car mechanic for three years. “When I raced in Formula Renault in 2007, sometimes I would check the gearbox myself. During the summers of 2007 and 2008 I worked in a Jaguar service centre, just to raise a bit of money,” he says.
“I have to say I’m not a big fan of supercars like Lamborghini or Bugatti – I think it is a bit too much,” he says. “In Finland I wouldn’t feel too comfortable having a supercar because there are not many of that type of car around. If I go to the local food market, I don’t like too much attention.
“So I like Mercedes – obviously – and I love Porsches. I have a three-year-old 911 4S in Finland. It is nothing like a supercar because it is a car you can drive every day.”
His first road car was a Ford Cougar, which he owned when he was 18. He planned to trade that for an Alfa Romeo 156, but “when I did a test drive in it, I put it around a tree”. When he moved to England in 2010 after landing the test driver role at Williams, he bought a new Mini Cooper. Now, he has a GLE Coupé at home in Finland in addition to the C63 Coupé which stays in Monaco.
“I could choose any car from the Mercedes model range and I chose the C63 Coupé because I can use it every day. I do clay pigeon shooting, so I can take my shotgun with me, or go to pick up someone with luggage from the airport, but if I want to have some fun on the small roads, there is plenty of power.”
Bottas says he isn’t really interested in trying motorsport away from F1 at this stage of his career, although he is curious about one day trying the Arctic Lapland Rally, which takes place in Rovaniemi in northernmost Finland each January and prides itself on being ‘the coldest rally in the world’.
For now, though, he’s consumed by a determination to add to his win tally in F1.
Although he admits that previous podium finishes didn’t really prepare him for the emotion of actually winning a grand prix, he maintains that nothing has changed about his mental …read more