Valtteri Bottas

Four seasons with Williams included finishing fourth overall in his sophomore 2014 campaign, eventually earning him a seat alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes from 2017. Unable to keep pace with the Briton, Bottas was forced to play second fiddle, but a new challenge at Alfa Romeo in 2022 saw him reprise his role as a seasoned F1 talent.

Karting and early career 

A successful karting career included finishing eighth in the 2005 Formula A World Championship at Braga. He switched to Formula Renault 2.0 two years later when he was third in the Northern European Cup for Koiranen Bros Motorsport. His second season in the category was with Motopark Academy and the young Finn won the Eurocup (beating Daniel Ricciardo by just three points) and NEC titles thanks to 17 race wins.

Having reportedly turned down a place in Renault’s young driver scheme, he graduated to the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2009 with team of the moment ART Grand Prix and a Dallara F308-Mercedes-Benz. He qualified on pole position twice but victory in a championship round remained elusive – the rookie finishing second at the Lausitzring, Zandvoort, Oschersleben, Nürburgring, Brands Hatch and Hockenheim. An impressive third in the final points (as team-mate Jules Bianchi was crowned champion), he converted another pole position to win the non-championship Zandvoort Masters.

From the archive

Bottas started 2010 as the title favourite and repeated that Masters win to become the race’s first two-time winner. He also won at the Norisring and Oschersleben but third in the standings once more was something of a disappointment. He then switched from ART to Prema Powerteam to finish third in the end-of-season Macau GP. Bottas was already associated with Williams by now – working in its simulator during 2010.

GP3 title success and Formula 1 with Williams 

Back with ART for the 2011 GP3 Series, Bottas recovered from a slow start to win races at the last four events to clinch the title with a round to spare. He also won a British F3 race at Donington on a one-off return to the category with Robertson Räikkönen Racing. The season ended with two days testing a Williams FW33-Cosworth at Abu Dhabi. That led to Bottas being named as Williams’ reserve driver for 2012 and he was its Friday test driver at 15 Grands Prix.

He was promoted to the race team in 2013 although the former champions were at a low ebb as it restructured its engineering team. Despite that, Bottas out-qualified more experienced team-mate Pastor Maldonado 11-8 (including starting an impressive third on the grid in Canada) and he finished eighth at Austin.

Fourth in the 2014 World Championship 

The team was transformed in 2014 with Pat Symonds established as Chief Technical Officer, Mercedes-Benz engines powering the FW36 and Martini new title sponsors. Bottas responded by generally outperforming Ferrari refugee Felipe Massa as he finished an impressive fourth overall. He qualified on the front row and finished third in Austria before back-to-back second-place finishes at Silverstone and Hockenheim (from another front row start in Germany). Third again in Belgium, Russia and Abu Dhabi – Bottas appeared every inch a winner of the future.

Forced to miss the 2015 Australian GP with a back injury, Bottas returned two weeks later and was a regular in the top five both in qualifying and in the race – finishing third in Canada and Mexico. Another fine result was lost in Russia thanks to Kimi Räikkönen’s overly optimistic overtaking manoeuvre and Bottas slipped to fifth overall (behind his compatriot) by the end of the season.

There were mid-season rumours of a move to Ferrari in 2016 but Bottas remained with Williams for a fourth season. The Williams FW38-Mercedes was not as competitive as its predecessors and Bottas dropped to eighth in the championship as a consequence. He overshadowed Massa once more (especially in qualifying) and employed a one-stop strategy to finish third in Canada.

Race winner with Mercedes-Benz

That was enough to earn a contract to race for Mercedes-Benz when World Champion Nico Rosberg retired immediately after clinching the title. Bottas began his first season alongside Hamilton in impressive form and initially held his own. On pole for round three in Bahrain, he scored a popular breakthrough victory next time out at Sochi. Second in Canada and (narrowly) in Baku, he converted another pole position into victory in Austria despite Sebastian Vettel’s pressure.

On the podium for the next two races, Bottas suffered in comparison to his team-mate after the summer break. That said, he responded to a confidence-sapping run of races (although always top five at the finish) to qualify on pole in Brazil and win the Abu Dhabi finale.

Bottas finished third in the 2017 World Championship before enduring a difficult second season in Hamilton’s shadow. Victory in Azerbaijan and Russia was denied by a puncture and team orders respectively. Openly critical of his own performances, Bottas slipped to fifth in the final standings.

He began 2019 with renewed focus and vigour – Valtteri Bottas 2.0. He beat Hamilton at the opening race of the season in Australia and finished second at the next two races. Victory in the fourth round in Baku (from a second successive pole position) restored the Finn to the head of the points table. He recorded another three pole positions and stood on the podium at 15 of the 21 GPs during 2019, but four-successive Hamilton victories proved crucial as the Englishman built a title-winning points lead. Bottas added further victories in Japan and the United States as he finished as runner-up behind the six-time World Champion.

From the archive

2020 was no better despite taking the first race of the season in Austria. Hamilton recovered to dominate the following rounds, taking 11 victories to Bottas’ two. The Finn was retained for the 2021 season despite a strong showing by Mercedes junior George Russell who deputised for Hamilton during the Sakhir Grand Prix. Russell pulled a great move on Bottas to take position in the closing stages, prompting many to suggest Bottas’ time with Mercedes could be coming to an end in the near future with the younger prospect waiting in the wings.

The following season was better for the Finn but he took just a single victory all year. He also came to blows with Russell at the second race of the season in Imola. Bottas had qualified poorly and was holding up the Williams driver in the wet conditions, but an ambitious attempt to pass the Finn resulted in a sizeable crash between the two. Tensions boiled with the 2022 Mercedes seat in the balance but by the mid-point of 2021, neither driver’s future had been confirmed. Ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, Bottas confirmed that he’d be leaving Mercedes and moving to Alfa Romeo with Russell taking his place at Merc in ’22. Bottas ended the season third in the drivers’ championship.

New beginnings

F1’s latest ‘Flying Finn’ found new life in 2022, despite Alfa Romeo suffering from numerous mechanical issues over the course of the season. Bottas seemingly looked in touching distance of podium finishes early in the season, qualifying ahead of George Russell and just over three tenths of a second behind Lewis Hamilton. His one-lap pace was kept consistent on race day too, finishing inside the top ten in seven out of the first ten grand prix.

Unfortunately, three consecutive DNF’s in Hungary, Belgium, and the Netherlands derailed any chance of a higher finish in the drivers’ standings, with Bottas eventually having to settle for tenth – 32 points shy of Fernando Alonso.

Non Championship Races