HEIR APPARENT TO THE FINNISH MANTLE AND KEEN TO FORGE HIS OWN LEGEND
altteri Bottas need do nothing more than he did in 2014. The wins will come: WilliamsMercedes are too punchy for it all to slip away.
The difcult thing, of course, will be to sustain a margin over his team-mate, Felipe Massa, something he must do if he is to graduate to the level of the Hamiltons, Ricciardos and Alonsos. Valtteri must outqualify Felipe over a season and also outrace him – as he did in 2014. Felipe, though, is now very different from the driver who left Ferrari chastened and a little desperate. He nished 2014 on a high, and that momentum will carry him through at least to Melbourne – and probably beyond if the Williams is quick.
It’s important for Valtteri not to lose concentration if the year begins in Felipe’s favour. It’s unlikely he will, but there’s no accounting for what pressure will do. Valtteri has so far proved himself immune to outside forces and I think the group around him – Jonathan Eddolls, Didier Coton, Mika Häkkinen, Toto Wolff – will continue to protect those walls. Valtteri needs to be prepared in case Felipe becomes
Vthe rst Williams winner since Pastor Maldonado. His knock-out punch would have to come at the next race, where – more than ever – he’ll need to outqualify Felipe and then beat him on the Sunday.
He has the technique to do so. Even in GP3 Valtteri showed a deftness of touch above the F1 average; and in 2014 he honed that into Lewis-like management of changing conditions. His economy of movement is compelling, particularly at low-speed changeof-direction corners and also into medium-speed turns.
Like Felipe, Valtteri had to spend 2014 down- and up-shifting with heavy load on the rear tyres (thanks to Williams’ short gear ratios) – but his ability to manipulate straight lines where Felipe was still loading the car in time became a Bottas trademark. Williams are retaining their own gearbox casing and internals for 2015 and it’s a fair bet that they’ll stretch the ratios a bit and that this little source of Bottas expression will in the main fade away. The better the car, in other words, the harder it will be for Bottas to dominate a quick and reexy driver like Felipe. That’s why he’ll be under so much pressure.
Bottas is now accomplished in trafc, too, with a racer’s sense for what’s next; and then there was the moment he outmuscled Fernando Alonso on the opening lap of the US GP. No longer the quiet rookie, in Austin Valtteri arrived as a racing driver – potentially a great one.