x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Valtteri Bottas' learning curve in Formula One

Williams's Finnish reserve driver speaks to Gary Meenaghan ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas is the reserve driver for Williams.
Valtteri Bottas is the reserve driver for Williams.

Williams's Finnish reserve driver may not be taking part in free practice this weekend, but he has plenty to think about after teammate Pastor Maldonado won in Spain. He speaks to Gary Meenaghan about the victory, the consequent garage fire and whether he is ready to steal Bruno Senna's race seat.

You have shown great pace in the free practice sessions you have taken part in. How do you rate your season so far and what did the team tell you they expected?

I'm pretty happy. The main thing is I've learnt a lot and every weekend I learn more. The goals I've set, I've achieved and I've also had good speed. Nobody expected that in the first couple of free practices I would have the speed - it surprised me too.

Are you now thinking about breaking into the team this season or is this year simply about learning?

Well, of course, as a racing driver I want to get into the car as soon as possible and next year I hope it is possible. This year is about preparing to be ready for that and to show the team that I really can do it.

And are you ready for F1?

Yes. I would do it for sure, but of course I learn more all the time. The more practices I do, the more ready I will be if the chance comes.

There has been talk you might replace Bruno during the break. Rumours must play on a driver's mind.

No. It doesn't change anything for me. My goal is the same; to learn and be a better driver every weekend. And to always show the team I can do a job whenever possible.

Pastor won in Spain to give Williams their first victory in nearly eight years. Does it change the expectations of the team and how did it feel for you as a member of this team?

I felt really good because I have seen how hard they have been working and it was a well-deserved win. Of course, it was a big surprise for us; nobody expected it, but it was great. I've never seen anything like it: after the chequered flag, every team member clapping their hands and hugging each other, smiling. It was special.

Then there was the fire in your pit garage immediately after. Did that spoil the mood permanently?

Of course everyone was shocked and it was mixed feelings after that. The team has had a busy time after that, but the main thing is everybody is still alive. Initially, in the factory it was a mixed atmosphere, but now we have all recovered, everyone will only remember the win.

You took part in the Young Drivers Test at Yas Marina last year. What do you make of this year's set-up where teams have the choice of Silverstone midseason or Abu Dhabi at the end of the year?

Yeah, I did two days testing in Abu Dhabi, which was my first experience in an F1 car. This year, I think if you are racing in another series, it would be better to do it at the end of the season, so it doesn't mix with your other training. It gets compromised otherwise.

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