The rise of Valtteri Bottas at Williams


The sudden resignation of Adam Parr as chairman of Williams Grand Prix Holdings is not the only challenge still facing their fast-improving F1 team after the first two races.

As is common knowledge, they have not one, but two, drivers who pay for the privilege of sitting in the FW32 this season. Pastor Maldonado brings a great many dollars from Venezuela, the national oil company PDVSA writ large on both cars in return for their much-needed support. Bruno Senna, meanwhile, brings cash from Brazil where he enjoys enviable support from some of the country’s wealthiest corporations. So what is wrong with any of that? The team desperately needed the revenue and the results of a strong budget and a re-structuring of the technical department can already be clearly seen. Williams is back in business.

The potential problem is a young lad from Nastola in Finland who can be seen in the FW32 on Grand Prix Fridays. Valtteri Bottas was still a teenager when he won both the Formula Renault Cup and the Formula Renault Northern European Cup. At the ripe old age of 20 he won the Masters of Formula 3, in 2009, and then won it again in 2010, by which time he had been signed as test driver at Grove. Last year, when not on duty for Williams, he went out and won the GP3 series. Over the winter, some in the team felt that Mr Bottas should be promoted. But Williams needs money to get back from the brink, that’s how life is these days, and Sir Frank Williams has never been afraid of pragmatic decisions that save his team. We should also remember that this is now a publicly quoted company on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Shareholders want profits.

The challenge for the company is to get itself into a position where it can take the calculated risk of putting Valtteri Bottas on the grid. This is not to denigrate either Maldonado or Senna, for both are deserving of a place on the grid. No, it is to recognise that Bottas has, by common assent, huge potential as a racer. Too early to speak of the next ‘Flying Finn’ yes, but certainly a Friday driver well worth watching this year.

The arrival of Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez has been a gale of fresh air in a sport that for too long had fallen back on the reliability of the old guard. Yes, it was sad to see Barrichello and Trulli finally forced to give way, but new talent adds a new level of excitement and expectation. Given the ban on testing during the season, it is harder than ever to properly assess a young driver, and yet it was clear to all of us that Vergne, Ricciardo and Perez had what it takes to handle the pressures of Grand Prix racing. Vergne, in particular, was highly impressive as a Friday driver. Both Vergne and Perez came from driver ‘academies’, sadly a luxury that only the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren can afford.

I do not know a single person who does not have a soft spot for the Williams team. And that is how it should be, they are part of the fabric of the sport, their record speaks for itself. So we should hope, as fans of the team and of the sport itself, that new talent is robustly encouraged. Despite the risks and the fiscal considerations. It would be shame if Valtteri Bottas slipped away from Grove with somebody else’s contract in his pocket. A truly fast and ambitious driver will grow tired of Fridays. He wants to chase Ferraris and McLarens on Sundays.

You may also like