Formula One: Ride of the Valtteri as he pushes on

ST reader Ruslan Rusli Lim posing for a wefie with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas at a UBS event. While the Finn trails team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by a large margin, he will not give up.
ST reader Ruslan Rusli Lim posing for a wefie with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas at a UBS event. While the Finn trails team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by a large margin, he will not give up.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Like many drivers, Valtteri Bottas remembers his first wins.

There, at Russia's Sochi Autodrom, he finally realised a dream he had since the age of six when he stood highest on the podium as a Formula One grand prix winner for Mercedes.

"It was a surreal feeling and it took a few days to sink in," he recalled of his win in April.

"And it also made me more hungry. The first win is special and so are things like your first race, your first contract... but the best memories are still ahead."

Bottas was at One Raffles Quay to meet Mercedes' sponsor, financial services group UBS. There, he also met 10 Straits Times readers and obliged all of their wefie and autograph requests.

He also gave a sneak peek into his preparations for Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix and the Oct 1 Malaysian GP. These include daily sauna sessions to acclimatise himself to the humidity and his pre-race meals, which are eaten 21/2 hours before the five green lights go off. And, it is risotto, tuna and vegetables, always.

Winless at Williams and with no pole positions, the move to replace the retired Nico Rosberg in January has kick-started his quest for honours - earning him two wins (Russia and Austria) and two poles.

At 27, he is reaching his peak and has a dream machine at his disposal with the Silver Arrows, last season's constructors champions.

Bottas, who yesterday signed a one-year contract for next year, said of the step-up: "I could see that it's a bigger team, much more people but it is a team of winners."

Nonetheless, he is keen to take the bull by the horns and that includes challenging his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton for honours. The Briton leads the drivers' championship on 238 points, 41 ahead of the third-placed Finn.

Bottas said: "Now, there is quite a gap in the points but there are seven races to go, a lot of points. It is still possible and it is Formula One, so you should never ever give up on your championship hopes.

"Lewis is more experienced than me, a three-time world champion, and he's definitely the best team-mate I've ever had. It's always a challenge to be ahead of him, but I like challenges. I want to be the best and it's my motivation."

Asked what areas he needs to do to close the gap to the Briton, he replied: "I don't see that I have any particular weak area as a driver but by experience, spending more time with the team to get feedback will help me get better and better.

"Over time, I will get quicker and make less mistakes."

Wang Meng Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Ride of the Valtteri as he pushes on'. Print Edition | Subscribe