Petronas Mercedes AMG Motorsports’ Valtteri Bottas knows he’s got big shoes to fill after the sudden retirement of world champion Nico Rosberg but he is off to a good start and speaks to Timesport’s FARAH AZHARIE on his targets
Question: In the Austalian GP season opener, you finished third but yet were not pleased with your achievement. Why are you so hard on yourself?
Answer: Because I want to win, obviously. I was racing for Williams and we had some good moments with the team. Quite a few podiums with them and for us, at that time, it felt like being on the podium was almost like a win. But now, with this team, they have dominated Formula One over the last three years, so the bar and aims are higher. There were things in Melbourne I could have improved on during qualifying, that’s why I feel like I haven’t done a 100 per cent job, I’m not happy. But, when I do get results, I feel happy and only then I get to enjoy it.
Q: Replacing the world champion Rosberg, are you feeling any pressure?
A: Sure, there are high expectations for me and for the team to prove that I’ve earned to be in this team. I have high targets for myself and I have to fulfil those so for me, the big part comes from the team and I get huge support from them. It’s a very welcoming team from all aspects and they are all supporting me in everything, they want me to perform because that means the whole team performs.
Q: After the third place finish in Australia, Niki Lauda applauded your achievement and said Rosberg couldn’t have done it better. How does it feel to have a three-time world champion say that about you?
A: Of course, that’s very nice to hear and the feedback has been positive since race one. It’s a good way to start the year but like you said, it’s the first race and more to come from my side. But I’m happy to hear that.
Q: When you first received that call from Petronas Mercedes AMG Motorsports, what was your reaction?
A: I was very happy obviously, the only thing was, it was quite informal and nothing was confirmed until it’s (the contract) signed. The only time I allowed myself to acknowledge that this was happening was when I saw the contract and that was on the day of the announcement (Jan 16). But I got to know a week before via phone call but I didn’t celebrate because I wanted to wait until everything was done and signed.
Q: How does being with Petronas Mercedes AMG Motorsport differ from Williams Mercedes?
A: For me, the change from Williams to Mercedes means more people because it’s a bigger team with more resources so you can dig deeper into the details technically and have more people, resources, to do that and for me the most impressive thing was seeing the mentality, the winning mentality.
The team have pretty much won everything over the past three years, they are still not easing off at all and want to be unbeatable. That’s the target, something I love.
Q: We all know about the rivalry between your current teammate Lewis Hamilton and Rosberg last season. How is it working with Hamilton? Are you two getting along?
A: For sure I respect him. He’s a three-time world champion! I respect him as a driver and a person, he’s been very good this year, we work as a team and the relationship has been nice and professional. We still haven’t raced hard on the track but it will come and I’m looking forward to that.
Q: What are your expectations for the season?
A: The end of the season results are the ones we normally don’t want to focus on too much because the end result will be whatever you achieve in every single race. I like to go about it day by day as a team, as an individual. There’s no doubt I want to win my first race in Formula One and if it comes to that , I will be ready but it’s too early to say more.
Q: What are the changes you’ve seen in Formula One?
A: When I was a kid, the first time I saw a race, it was so impressive for me and what completed my personal point of view was the sound of the engines. You can feel it in your body and that was amazing. But with the technology now, the cars are efficient. There are a few that still sound the same but are somehow different but then again, life goes on.