The second of our ‘Who is…’ articles features arguably the most exciting of the three new drivers joining the grid for 2013, Finland’s Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas will become the 9th Finn to take to a Formula One starting grid when the season starts, and his junior category results suggest he could continue the remarkable ratio of success his predecessors have achieved in the name of Finland – 4 of them have won races with 3 of the 9 becoming World Champion.
Such promise first became apparent when he took both the Formula Renault EuroCup and Formula Renault Northern European Cup in 2008, balancing his speed and agression in order to beat a field that included future Toro Rosso team mates Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne. Bottas would also have triumphed in the 2007 Formula Renault UK Winter Series…had he been registered with the MSA (Motor Sports Association). Three wins from four races would clearly have been enough for him to be crowned champion. 2008 marked him out as a character that does not like unfinished business – the Northern European Cup had eluded him in 2007 when he was placed 3rd.
3rd place in the Formula 3 Euroseries was something of a disappointment after such an overwhelming 2008, but nevertheless 2009 was a promising year. It did bring him success in the shape of the winner’s trophy for the Masters of Formula 3, an award previously held by such names as Nico Hulkenberg, Paul Di Resta, Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard.
Snapped up by Williams for 2010 under the guise of ‘Test Driver’, he began work on a path toward a race seat with the team. In the meantime he continued to achieve in his racing endeavours, adding another F3 Masters crown to his growing CV in 2010. The GP3 championship was rightly his thanks to an incredible late-season comeback that saw him overturn a points deficit to team mate James Calado in 2011.
2012 was a quiet affair for the 23 year-old as he concentrated on his Formula One activities and Friday sessions, making the most of the cockpit time he could get when regular driver Bruno Senna was forced to make way for the protégé. The near-inevitable announcement that Bottas would join the Williams race squad for 2013 was eventually made on the 28th November last year.
There are many that feel that despite his consistency and dependability, Senna had to make way for Bottas in order to make Williams a stronger team; 2012 was about finding the speed everyone thought they had lost, and 2013 will be all about translating that into regular podiums and more victories.
It is, then, a challenging time for the Finn to be joining one of F1’s most illustrious teams, and the expectation given his pedigree is certainly great. His speed may be a match for the undoubted pace of pseudo-team leader Pastor Maldonado and if so, don’t be surprised if we see a Williams 1-2 on the grid sometime in 2013 should the Didcot outfit continue their upward progress.
Williams can build fast cars, they know how to develop them and they don’t like losing – for Valtteri his task seems simple and I for one would expect nothing less than a stern challenge to the established midfield runners and riders from this, the most promising of the incoming talent.
One can only hope he hasn’t taken media-relations lessons from Kimi Raikkonen…