Valtteri Bottas looks to be in pole position to replace World Champion Nico Rosberg at the Mercedes F1 team. This will bring to an end a four-year stint at the Williams Martini Racing team. Ahead of his possible departure, let’s take a look at his career so far…
On the back of winning the GP3 championship, and after spending 2012 as a Williams test and reserve driver, Bottas made his debut for the team in 2013 and Williams had high hopes for the season. They had just bounced back from a difficult 2011 to win the Spanish Grand Prix with Pastor Maldonado, and hoped 2013 would bring yet more success with the signs in pre-season testing hopeful. However, that was all to change in an instant. 2013 was another nightmare year for the Grove-based squad. They scored no points until the Hungarian Grand Prix and had struggled to get its cars out of Q1 in qualifying. Despite this, Bottas did show flashes of speed and this became evident in the 2013 qualifying session of the Canadian Grand Prix.
“It’s nice to be up there but the race is what counts in the end. But it is a much better position to start than in some previous races”
Valtteri Bottas – 2013 Canadian GP Qualifying
Under normal conditions, the FW35 was not going to make it into Q3, but qualifying in Canada was a mixed conditions affair and Bottas excelled in the changing weather. Getting the car into Q3 was remarkable in itself, but he went one step further and stunned the field by taking an incredible 3rd place on the grid for the race. It was a definitive performance and proved Bottas was a star in the making. Sadly, the dry weather pace of the car had not improved and he could only manage 14th in the race a lap down on eventual race winner Sebastian Vettel. Nonetheless, Bottas had caught the eye. When upgrades and tweaks to the car near season’s end improved its performance, the Finn bagged a great 8th place in the United States Grand Prix and pulled off a fabulous move on the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez in the process. Unfortunately the year ended in a collision with Lewis Hamilton, but little did we know how great a year 2014 would be for Bottas and Williams.
That was the best champagne I’ve ever tasted. All the hard work that the team puts in shows in moments like this.
Valtteri Bottas – Austrian GP 2014
2014 turned out to be the breakthrough year for Bottas. The Williams FW36 ultimately proved to be the second best car that year behind the all conquering Mercedes W05. With a supply of Mercedes V6 hybrid-turbo’s, the team excelled. A slow start to the year and a lost podium in Australia all came good in Austria, where they capitalised on a scrappy qualifying for Mercedes to take the entire front row, headed by Felipe Massa with Bottas P2. Whilst the victory slipped through the teams fingers that race, Bottas did bag 3rd place and his first podium in Formula 1 and the team’s first since the victory in Spain back in 2012. The podiums did not stop there. Bottas went on a roll, taking second places in Britain and Germany. Spa produced a strong third place after a brilliant move around the outside of Vettel at Les Combes. Bottas was proving not only his speed, but his racing prowess as well. More podiums followed in Sochi and Abu Dhabi. In total, Bottas took six podiums to his teammate’s three and the Finn ended the season 4th in the driver’s championship. A win might have eluded him, but the Finn had well and truly arrived in Formula 1.
Going into 2015, Williams had hoped to give Mercedes a run for their money and challenge for victories, but it wasn’t to be. Ferrari made a huge leap forward and team had to settle for being regular podium contenders as in 2014. This objective was of course made tougher thanks to Ferrari’s upturn in form. Bottas took podiums in Canada and Mexico and was unlucky to not win at Silverstone after both Williams cars launched into the lead thanks to slow Mercedes getaways. A certain podium was cruelly taken away from the Finn in Sochi too after a crazy last-lap attempted pass by Kimi Raikkonen put him out of the race. Do Finn’s see blue mist instead of red? The team did however manage to secure third in the constructors standings.
More of the same was hoped for in 2016, but Red Bull had come back strong and Force India also took a great step forward. 2015 had yielded four podiums for the team but 2016 was even worse. They slipped back to 5th in the standings and only took one podium, courtesy of Bottas in Canada. That drive in itself was impressive, pulling off a one stop strategy to perfection and beating the likes of Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg.
Despite the teams slump, Bottas’ speed has never been under question. He has proven to be a fantastic overtaker and a great qualifier – special laps including Sochi 2014 and Suzuka 2015. He is consistent and full of experience, making him the ideal candidate to replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. His chance to really prove himself in a race-winning car has been a long time coming. A seat at Mercedes would really give F1’s new ‘Flying Finn’ the chance to shine. Go on Mercedes, get that contract sorted. You know you want to!