Opinions have always been divided about Valtteri Bottas, 33. From the most promising Mercedes to the winger, from the best driver in the world champion team to the owner, but in the middle of the table team.
Anyone who thinks that this Finnish boy is tormented by a present and a completely uncertain future is mistaken. Bottas isn’t a “snowman,” but he’s not even his own gossip.
If stimulated, Valtteri comes out, and the first sensation is the feeling of great solidity, on all fronts. He blindly believes in his choices and the opinions of very few people, and seems to have a clear idea of what awaits him.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
He has embraced the Alfa Romeo project and will also be there when the team returns to calling itself Sauber, spurred on by what he has seen this season and his belief in Fred Vasseur.
For the first time in your entire career, you spent the summer without having to sign a contract that would guarantee you the next season. Was it weird?
“It was so much fun! No questions about my future, finally. So much less stress, it’s definitely fun.”
And speaking of news, this season she will wear the captain for the first time. After two-thirds of the tournament, what are your budgets?
“It was a natural transition, given that my teammate is a rookie, obviously asked me a lot during the season and I was happy to be able to help. In terms of my role in the team, coming from Mercedes, I put what I learned into a great team and it was a pleasure to be able to help. To be able to do my part and be available for the team.”
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Have the expectations you had on the eve of this season been met? Your start in the tournament was very positive, then in the summer the impression was that you lost competitiveness …
“Our project is long-term, we are focused on next season, although we have some updates that should come to the Japanese Grand Prix. One of the things we learned during this championship is the reasons why we got off to a good start and lost some ground races after another.” .
“One of the issues we had was related to the speed of production of the various components, the team took this aspect very seriously, we realize that we need more resources because we found ourselves having projects brought into the wind tunnel but not realized due to a shortage of personnel. Next year We will have more staff available and it will definitely be an important step for the growth of the team.”
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42
Photography: Alfa Romeo
Is it just a matter of resources?
“Yes, we have a good structure but we need more people. Right now there are 500 of us, but, say, there are 750 people at Williams. So we know what we’re missing, the team is looking for staff, and the budget for next year is not an issue. “.
A regulation change introduced this year has somewhat divided drivers’ opinion of driving. Did you find a good feel for this car or do you prefer the former?
“When I think about qualifying lap, I would have preferred the older single-seat generation, and that’s just for the weight. Today you have the perception that you’re driving a less reactive car, but that feeling appears above all on the fast lap. On the other hand, if we talk about Racing, I have no doubts in saying the 2022 single seater is better, you can stay close to who’s in front of you and that’s a very positive change.”
Even with the new regulation at the end, we always end up talking about tire management. Is it really the most important component of qualification and race management?
“Personally I think that compared to last year in the race the situation has improved a little bit. But in qualifying it is still key, if you can’t get to the proper operating temperature you’re a mess. It remains a very important goal for every driver and every team, and often What makes the difference between an excellent or a disappointing weekend. In Zandvoort I found myself 16th in qualifying precisely because of the tire warm-up, it’s a move that can make a huge difference.”
Alfa Romeo Racing C42, Sauber made gearbox detail as rear suspension
Image source: Uncredited
Is it a complicated procedure to perform? What difficulties must be encountered to start a cycle with the correct tire temperature?
“On each track we have precise maneuvers to do. In the preparation course, there are a set number of knits (changes of direction on straight lines) that need to be made at certain points, and through which the acceleration, or the somewhat decisive braking, varies which varies according to the curve. And if Not everything is done perfectly, there is a risk of losing the target, just a few degrees of temperature above or below the window to lose control.Obviously, the weather can have an effect too, if there is a sudden change in environmental conditions, the procedure should be reviewed, So it’s not easy.”
To what extent have technical problems affected your season? I lost a lot of sessions due to breakdowns especially to the power unit …
“Enough. I haven’t finished two of the last three races, in Spa due to an accident and in Zandvoort due to a technical problem. Reliability is a top priority for us, as is also the case for Ferrari, but there is still work to be done.”
Until last year I was very front row, this year in the middle of the grid. Different situations and goals, of course, but what changes from the driver’s point of view?
“It’s an environment with less pressure, the context I’m in now is less ‘company’ and more racing team, but everyone’s motivation is the same. It was very good to start the season right away by scoring some points in Bahrain and I think the weekend gave an extra boost, The team understood that there would be more races where we could finish in the top ten.”
“That ‘boost’ is still there, when we don’t get points, I see the team are disappointed, and that’s the right spirit. Then, obviously, the goals are different from the ones I should have achieved last year, but in the end it’s getting close. He himself, in 2021 the goal was to win, and today he is in the top ten.”
Frederic Vasseur, Head of Alfa Romeo Racing Team
Photo: Germain Hazard / DPPI
Last year, the fact that you accepted Alfa Romeo’s proposal was also not hidden by the presence of Fred Vasseur, the team principal with whom you won the title in the GP3 series in 2011. Did you find a single Fred?
“Absolutely! He’s the same guy I remembered, funny and has a good sense of humor, but at the same time Fred can also be very direct, and he’s very focused on the progress of the work. He was one of the main reasons I’m here today, and I’m glad to be there.”
The Spa-Zandvoort-Monza hat-trick and 24 Grands Prix that will form part of the 2023 calendar have brought the growing theme of racing, a theme that divides the circuit, to the fore. How do you see that?
“There has to be a limit, I think after a certain number of races for teams it becomes physically difficult, we can’t even think that you have to have two teams, which is an expensive and complicated scenario as well.”
“Personally I think we are very close to the limit, not so much for the non-cyclists, who arrive on the track on Thursday and leave on Sunday evening, as well as for individuals who arrive much earlier and leave later. I think the limit that cannot be exceeded is 25 A race. More means making it necessary to have two teams.”
Did you miss the Formula 1 tests a bit? Do you think it would be appropriate to reduce the races a bit to get days of testing?
“I think it is not a problem for the riders who have good experience now, but it is a problem for the youngsters. It is difficult to prepare well for the debut without being able to shoot, I do not want to be in their place.”
Valtteri Bottas smiling: Positive for the Finn in his first year with Alfa Romeo
Photography: Alfa Romeo
Can you imagine yourself in Formula 1 at the age of 41 like Fernando?
“I am not confident. I am really impressed with Fernando’s performance, he is still at a very good level, but for me I don’t know, so I say… I never say.”
But your vision in motorsport is not “Formula 1 or nothing”. Do you see yourself in other contexts?
“I am completely open to any challenge, love to drive, and can find motivation in many other contexts. I believe that the day my Formula 1 adventure ends, I will continue to drive in other championships, the only condition being to find something that guarantees me more Leisure “.