FORMULA 1 2014
s a rookie in 2013, Valtteri Bottas
finished 17th in the Formula 1 World
Drivers’ Championship, earning four of
the five points that Williams accumulated
in a miserably uncompetitive campaign.
This time around, he ended the season in
fourth place, immediately ahead of
multiple World Champions Sebastian
Vettel and Fernando Alonso, having
notched up 186 points.
The revival of Williams was one of the
most extraordinary stories of the year. After
plumbing the depths in 2013, the team
underwent a radical transformation. A fresh
new look, including classic Martini Racing
stripes, was the outward manifestation.
However, the keys were a restructuring of
a tired technical organization by Pat
Symonds, and the decision to abandon
Renault and go with Mercedes, which
could not have been better timed.
The team had the best power unit, but
also made great strides in aerodynamics,
its Achilles Heel in recent seasons. The
slippery FW36 was always fast in a
straight line, but not to the ultimate
detriment of cornering ability. Finally,
Williams had a contender once more.
The team quickly usurped McLaren
and Force India to become the predominant
Mercedes customer outfit; by midseason,
we were used to seeing the white cars on
the second row of the grid. In Austria, it
went one row better, with Felipe Massa
actually beating the factory Mercedes
cars to pole for the only time in 2014.
In terms of strategy and race weekend
operations, Williams wasn’t always on the
ball, with too many fumbles. Indeed, there
were times when it seemed it could have
put more pressure on Mercedes, but
rebuilding the muscle memory of a truly
competitive team takes time.
Throughout this re-learning curve,
Bottas performed superbly in his
sophomore season with the team. A
string of podiums confirmed the Finn as
the man who, along with Daniel Ricciardo,
could be a major player in future
iterations of the F1 driver market.
“For everyone in the team, I think it
was a positive surprise in Melbourne
when we saw how quick the car was,”
recalls Bottas. “Of course, when we saw in
testing where things were heading with
the new regulations and new engine, and
also our aero developments with the new
car, we knew we were going to be better
than in 2013. But it was nice to see that
it turned out even better than expected.
“Melbourne was actually quite tough
for me,” he adds. “I made a mistake and
probably lost my first podium there. I
learned from that, definitely. And as a
team, I think we weren’t yet at the level of
where the pace of the car was.
“But now we are just getting better and
better and stronger in all areas. We’ve
been much more consistent and able to
turn the pace of the car into good results.
That’s just by working hard, analyzing
mistakes, and making sure we don’t
repeat them. I don’t think we’ve repeated
any mistakes this year, which is good.
“It was about a lot of things, setting up
the car, getting the most out of the tires,
(ABOVE) Just one race
after his first podium,
Bottas celebrated his
first runner-up finish
at Silverstone. No
wonder Sir Frank
Williams (LEFT) looks
far happier than he
has for many years.