Interview: Bottas ready for "hard but fair" battle with Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas has promised new Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton some "hard but fair" battles in 2017, as he thinks the pair can work well together for Mercedes.

The Finn has been handed the opportunity of his grand prix career after being signed as the replacement for retiring world champion Nico Rosberg.

And although he faces the tough prospect of going up against incumbent Hamilton, Bottas thinks he can juggle the demands of being a team player but also looking after his own interests.

When asked how tough it would be to balance the needs of the team against his own will to succeed, Bottas reckoned that there was a way to deliver on both fronts.

"It is definitely tricky to be a team player and at the same time always trying to put yourself in front," he said in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com at his home in Finland.

"It is a kind of a new situation for me. I think the best [thing] for me is to carry on as I have always done, so I do everything for the team.

"But, at the same time, I have my own goals and in F1 you do need to be selfish if you want to win. And I think I have it.

"It is just depending on the situation and calculating what is the best overall. I cannot say more than that really. We will see during the year how it goes.

"I normally get on with everyone and I believe we definitely can with Lewis race very hard but fair and respect each other. At least that is how it is possible."

 

Strict rules

Although Rosberg and Hamilton endured several key flashpoints in their time together at Mercedes since 2013, Bottas says he is not worried about the possibility of tense times.

In fact, he believes Mercedes will be better able to cope with any situations that crop up, as he suggests there will be 'strict' orders from team management about how he and Hamilton deal with each other.

"For sure they [Rosberg and Hamilton] have had a tough battle and really tough times against each other," said Bottas. "That is what happens when you are fighting for the wins. It is F1...

"For sure you can go through all of that and see [what happens]. But as a team they [Mercedes] have also learned a lot about how to deal with those situations, and they have had so many different scenarios with the two drivers that I am sure there is massive help and guiding from the team as well.

"I am sure that the rules will be quite strict about what you can do and what not. So obviously we all want to race each other and that is possible, but in case there are any issues the team can always control it."

Pressure point

While there will be a great focus from outside on how Bottas performs against Hamilton, he is well aware that he needs to impress his own bosses if he is to keep his seat for 2018.

With potential big movement on the driver market over the next 12 months, and Bottas having never shown what he can do in race-winning machinery, he has been handed a one-year contract with options to extend if he does well.

Although that means there is a need to deliver, he says he is relishing the challenge ahead – and has no doubts he can do what is required of him.

"Yes, I think about it positively," he said. "I think it is a massive opportunity for me and like I said in December, I didn't see this coming.

"You never know in life what is going to happen and this is such a great thing to happen for me that I am definitely going to be...I am willing to take the opportunity and make everything out of it.

"I just see it as a great new page for me in my career and I know in terms of driving skill and in terms of all the work that I do, that I can do it and I definitely can prove to the team that I deserve the place.

"I know how F1 works, it is completely normal that the team wants to see how I perform, and that is why it would be difficult to immediately go to a longer contract.

"But that is actually more or less what I am used to anyway. It has been many times for me that still in the middle of the year you are unsure what is going to happen. So it is nothing new for me.

"But obviously it is in a different league, but that is fine. It doesn't change anything. But luckily the one thing only that still matters to me is to perform on the track. That is the main thing. And I just need to keep that in mind: not to think too much about other stuff."

 

Drive the wheels off

In fact, rather than worry about things that can be thrown at him, Bottas says he is simply eager for the season to get underway.

"I just want to get going. I am not nervous. I've not been at any point really," he said. "I know I can do it, I just want to get everything started.

"I think the main thing for me is just do always remind myself that there is no help at all if I start putting pressure on myself, or taking pressure outside because it doesn't help at all. I've experienced that.

"So I just need to trust my skills, go day-by-day and race weekend by race weekend. [I need to] do every single bit perfectly, drive the wheels off the car and it is very simple in the end."

When asked if having two months of preparation was enough, or whether he felt he would be heading into the season on the backfoot, Bottas added: "I don't feel that being on the back foot. I think we have been very good in making use of the time that we have had for this so far.

"I think the plan the team put together for me to get into everything has been very good and I have already done a few race simulations in the simulator. A lot of engineering meetings and it has been very efficient one month now, and I feel like I have learned massively.

"Of course I would have preferred to have started the preparation earlier but it was not possible, so we need to deal with it. But I don't feel we will be on the back foot. We are going to be well prepared and of course it will still be a massive learning curve for me but it should be good."

No panic

But even if the campaign does not get off to the ideal start, Bottas says the key thing for him is to keep believing in himself, and not allow outside perceptions to get to him.

"Well, my goal is definitely to perform from the very first race on the level of the car and on the level of what the team is going to be expecting from me," the Finn added.

"If it takes a bit of time there is no drama, as there are so many new things and Lewis has been with the team for a long time.

"I know, being a long time with Williams, how beneficial it can be to be in the same team for a long time and getting to know everyone that well and knowing how the team works exactly in terms of how the team operations at the track and in terms of what set up changes you do and what sort of things you have experienced in the past.

"I have some experience of those with the setups and all these things – that is definitely going to help Lewis. I need to learn quickly. But my goal is to be on it for the first race."

 

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton , Valtteri Bottas
Teams Mercedes
Article type Interview