A Finnish driver in the Williams team has a nice little ring to it. The last time that happened was with Keke Rosberg, who won the title with the team in 1982 in his first year with the team.
OK, so the situation is very different today with the cash-strapped privateer team struggling in more ways than one. For latest incumbent, Valtteri Bottas, his debut Formula One season couldn’t be a tougher baptism at the pinnacle of motorsport, and his goal is to learn as much as he can. Points are a mere bonus.
A Competent Start
Bottas came into the team at the expense of Bruno Senna for the 2013 season to team up with proven race winner Pastor Maldonado.
He made a decent start, relatively speaking, out-qualifying Maldonado in Australia and lasting the duration of the race while the more experienced Venezuelan spun into retirement.
A poor qualifying in Malaysia saw Bottas ahead of only the Marussias and the Caterhams, but a superb race followed. The Williams driver overtook a number of cars on a drying track en route to 11th and was tantalisingly close to a maiden point in only his second race.
For the third race in succession, Bottas finished ahead of his teammate in China and out-qualified Maldonado again in Bahrain and Spain, finishing both races albeit behind the Venezuelan.
And so onto Monaco, arguably the sternest of tests for any rookie F1 driver and even more so for the Finn, who had never before raced the circuit in any form of motorsport.
A 12th-place finish in a race that saw Max Chilton drive into the unfortunate Maldonado. It appears that almost all Finnish drivers do indeed have ice running through their veins.
A Stellar Qualifying Performance
Then came Montreal and what can only be described as one of the most impressive qualifying performances ever by a rookie driver, putting his Williams team an amazing third on the grid in tough, changeable weather conditions.
In a recent interview in August’s F1 Racing magazine, Bottas described his emotion at the highlight of his career to date and said he hoped it would be the start of things to come.
I knew the lap was going to be strong, because of our performance in Q1 and Q2. Still, it was a nice surprise to finish third overall. When I pulled into parc ferme and saw all the mechanics with smiles on their faces it was a great feeling. They were so happy and I could see how much it meant to them. The I stood in the pitlane to pose for the photographers. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel said to me: “What are you doing here?!” Sebastian congratulated me in the press conference which was nice. Of course I would rather have been P1, but I didn’t say that to him. One day, maybe next time.
Alas, Bottas suffered a poor race start and excessive tyre graining in dryer conditions on the way to 14th, but he had more than proven his point.
Two more solid finishes in Britain and Germany meant the young Finn had made it to the chequered flag in all of his first nine grand prix starts. It was just what team boss Frank Williams would have wanted.
The Hungarian Grand Prix saw Bottas fail to finish a race for the first time due to a hydraulics problem as Maldonado delivered the team’s first point. But Bottas must be quietly satisfied to the start to his rookie season as he proudly continues the tradition of Finns in F1.
Valtteri’s Midseason Marks:
Race craft: 7/10
Summary: A very competent start to his Formula One career.
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