Bottas finishes P9 in Arctic Lapland Rally

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas recovered well from a shaky start to finish ninth in his second Arctic Lapland Rally.

Bottas drove the Citroën DS3 WRC in the event which marks the first round of the 2020 Finnish Rally Championship.

He was alongside fellow Finn Timo Rautiainen who co-drove with Marcus Gronholm to two FIA World Rally Championship titles in 2000 and 2002.

It was a difficult opening day as Bottas struggled to get accustomed to the snowy and icy conditions, finishing 22nd overall.

But he would pump in a much stronger display on day 2, ultimately finishing the event in 9th position.

Bottas has now competed in three rally events, the second of which he won at the Rallycircuit Côte d’Azur 2019.

In an Instagram post Bottas wrote: “Another Arctic Lapland Rally finished.

“After a messy day 1 and 22nd overall we managed to get back into the top 10 during the final day with Timo.

“Got to drive in completely new conditions for me yesterday with poor visibility and lots of loose snow on the stages.

“Learned a lot that’s for sure. And had a lot of fun which is the main thing.”

Bottas’ attention will soon return to Formula 1 business as he looks to finally crack the code that is his six-time World Champion Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

The first 2020 pre-season test will get underway at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on 19 February.

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Bottas reveals 'final step' needed to beat Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas believes that less mistakes and solid consistency are key to beating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton over the course of a full season.

After a winless campaign in 2018 and a winter of introspection, Bottas hit the ground running in Australia last year, the Finn trading race wins with Hamilton in the first four races of 2019.

But therefatre, Bottas gradually lost ground on the reigning world champion, allowing Hamilton to accumulate the race wins and detach himself at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Bottas fought back, securing wins in Japan and Brazil but it was too little too late for the 30-year-old who knows however what he’ll need this year to keep himself in contention for the world title, from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi.

“It’s quite clear in my mind,” he said. “We’re definitely [working] with the engineers and with the team on my development programme.

“Things we’re really focusing on [is] the race week and for my performance that final step I need is consistency.

“Still more adaptability to different circumstances [as well], but the main thing is minimising mistakes.

“There were some qualifying sessions where I made mistakes and that compromised the Sunday and then there was some races where I made mistakes, for example, Hockenheim, I lost a big chunk of points there so [it’s about] trying to get rid of those.

“There’s still a lot I feel I can improve. It’s fine details here and there, a lot related to driving style and tyre management. But it’s a whole lot better than last year.”

©Mercedes

One of Hamilton’s biggest assets is his ability to deliver a peak performance, lap after lap, race after race, regardless of the track or conditions.

Bottas’ ambition of rivaling his teammate on that level is a tall order, but it will be the price he will need to pay if he wants a real chance to defeat F1’s mega star.

“It feels like I have to dig very deep to find anything more from my side – how I can be a better driver, how I can perform better, how I can work better with engineers,” he added.

“It definitely keeps me working hard because it’s just not easy to beat him. And it requires a lot. That’s pushing me on every single day.

“I believe there’s always something that I can do better and I can fix those weaknesses. Maybe I’m a bit more stubborn.”

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Hamilton: I felt pressure from ‘Bottas 2.0’

Lewis Hamilton has admitted that, at the start of the season, he found it difficult to deal with pressure from a resurgent Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn took two pole positions and two wins in the first four races of 2019, leading his Mercedes team-mate in the championship after them.

Hamilton admits that, while he’s used to slow starts to his seasons, Bottas’s form did briefly worry him.

“Qualifying was good in Melbourne but I lost the race. I had the damage and I fell back quite far,” Hamilton told Autosport.com.

“The first couple of races are usually not perfect for me. They’re still not bad, still better than average, but then there’s all the outside pressures of ‘Valtteri 2.0’ and I’m thinking, ‘We’re 2-2 at one stage, two wins apiece’.

“I’ve got to stay solid in my mind, I can’t allow the outside [factors to affect me]… but being human it’s very hard not to notice those things.”

The Briton then went on an excellent run to pull away from Bottas and eventually cruise to his sixth World Championship, and he agreed that consistency was the key factor in his improved form.

“More consistency within the race was really important for me. So other areas in just health aspects, weekend in, weekend out delivering,” he added.

“It’s crazy because we got to August and I’m thinking, ‘Jeez, I’ve had eight wins,’ and as a team, we’ve had like 14 wins and you kind of forget those things because you’re just always looking forwards and time is always ticking.

“But it was not intentional not to wow. I’ve been searching for that wow lap this year. And honestly, I’ve had good laps but they’ve not shown in the order, necessarily.

“I think some of my second places that split up the Ferraris, for me felt like relatively quite wow laps but because I wasn’t on pole by half a second it doesn’t appear that way for you. But for me internally it did.”

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Bottas says it's a 'no brainer' to stay at Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas is heading into his fourth season with Mercedes knowing he once again has it all to prove if he wants to remain with the team beyond 2020.

The 30-year-old Finn joined the squad as Lewis Hamilton’s team mate at the end of 2016 following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement decision and has been on a rolling one-year contract ever since

This year he emphatically proved himself with four race wins and his best ever finish in the drivers championship, claiming second place behind Hamilton from Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

Bottas certainly doesn’t want to be anywhere else than Brackley for the foreseeable future, and hopes that he will get another contract extension to take him through into a new era of sporting rules and regulations.

“If I could decide on my future for 2021 it would be a no brainer to continue with this team,” he candidly admitted to GPToday.net

“I really enjoy it here, we are performing better and better, and I am becoming a better driver all the time.”

It’s not just Bottas who will potentially be out of contract at the end of next year. After a relatively stable transfer market in 2019, there are many big names who will potentially be free agents in 12 months time.

Hamilton, Verstappen and Vettel will all be negotiating new contracts in 2020. Only Leclerc’s long-term future is secure after Ferrari recently announced a new five-year contract with its rising young star.

“I can’t remember a time where so many people are expiring with contracts,” Bottas acknowledged. “I think it’s going to be an interesting season for sure.

“Of course, I – like every other driver – will look at all the possible options,” he added.

However, Bottas isn’t pinning all his hopes on staying in Formula 1 and has also been exploring future possibilities in rallying, just as his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen did during his own sabbatical from F1 in 2010-11.

©Mercedes

Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, Bottas won a recent event held at the Circuit Paul Ricard. And earlier this year he was fifth in the Arctic Lapland Rally behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta WRC.

“It’s a fun thing for me to do and I like it,” he said of his recent rallying endeavours. “It’s good for me to try it and to have something different for my skills.

“You never know what’s ahead in life or what’s gonna happen,” Bottas continued, while insisting that F1 remained his chief focus.

“I haven’t thought that far and I still see myself in Formula 1 for quite some time,” he said. “I would say never say never [but] there is still lots to give and lots to achieve [in F1], for sure.

“One day I’ll see what I want to do, but for the moment I find it a lot of fun.

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Hamilton needed ‘new ace’ after engineer swap

Lewis Hamilton says that he had to find a “new ace” to keep his performance advantage in 2019 after losing his engineer to team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas’ former race engineer Tony Ross moved over to work with Mercedes’ Formula E team, so the Silver Arrows replaced him with Hamilton’s performance engineer Riccardo Musconi.

This was the first time that Bottas got the chance to work with Musconi and he described it as a “great opportunity” – it worked after all with the Finn winning two of the opening four races.

But Hamilton was clear that Musconi’s move made 2019 “harder” for him.

“He is a very talented engineer and naturally he wants to progress, no-one wants to stay in the same position and being lead engineer has got to be a great goal for an engineer,” Hamilton told Motorsport.com.

“But we had learned so much and working together I had pulled things out of him that perhaps he didn’t realise he would have, or maybe it would’ve taken longer to have done, and vice-versa.

“So then when he goes over to the other side, without doubt he’d have been saying, ‘Valtteri, why weren’t you doing these things, Lewis does this, why are you not doing that?’.

“This year it has made it even more challenging because I’m thinking: ‘OK how do I twist it? How do I change these small things now that they’re doing the same, without losing performance?’

“Now I’ve got to refine it and take a step up. When it’s already close to 100%, taking that 1%, the gap closes. So bringing in a new ace is so hard to find.”

Unsurprisingly Bottas was very happy to have been given the chance to work with Musconi.

“It was good for me to have a change, a different way of working with engineers,” said the Finn.

“And also getting Ricci from Lewis’s side, he’s been working with him, so he knows very much in detail about his driving techniques and ways of setting up the car.

“For sure, it was always going to be a great opportunity for me to get maybe something even more than what I normally get in the meetings and what I see from the data.

“It was nice to have that kind of approach on the engineering side.”

Bottas’ title challenge would fade away in the end, but the last time Mercedes swapped around their personnel back in 2016, it caused some upset.

The German manufacturer made five changes to the engineering line-up on each car, with the number one mechanics being swapped.

That was the season of course where Nico Rosberg got the better of Hamilton to win his first and only World Championship, leaving Hamilton frustrated with the staff changes.

Bottas was keen though to focus on how Musconi’s swap to the other side of the garage was also an opportunity for Hamilton.

“There’s never been a problem about that,” Bottas confirmed. “It definitely shows that we deal with things as they come in.

“He [Hamilton] is still hungry to be even better than what he is now. For him also, with different people, it’s always an opportunity as well.”

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Bottas says 2018 repeat would have cost him seat

Valtteri Bottas believes that Mercedes would have dropped him at the end of 2019 if there was no improvement on the previous season.

The Finn failed to win a race in 2018 and finished down in P5 in the Championship, 161 points behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, both Ferraris and Max Verstappen.

He immediately improved in 2019 however, winning two of the first four races before going on to get two more and finish P2 in this season’s standings.

“If I had a similar season to 2018, I don’t think the team would have continued with me. That’s how Formula 1 works,” Bottas told Autosport.com.

“It’s so important for me and also for my general well-being. I’ve had much more fun between the races now, and kind of fell in love with the sport, which I maybe lost a little bit towards the end of last year.

“I’m really enjoying the driving and it’s such an important season for me. Now I can happily say again I have many, many years ahead of me, and hopefully still with that same development.”

Bottas says that not only did that form help him keep his seat, one that many believed Esteban Ocon would fill for 2020, but also puts him in a better mental state to start the upcoming season in.

“It’s nicer, and an easier way mentally to start the next season,” he added.

“I feel it’s important to have good results, not only in the last few races. It’s not 100% necessary, because I know that even after a bad season, you can start a new season strong.

“But it is just nicer, and also for the team to know that I can perform for the whole year, on every single race track, and then they know that I’m definitely upward for 2020.”

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Bottas: Winless 2019 would have led to loss of Mercedes seat

Valtteri Bottas believes a repeat this year of his lackluster 2018 season with Mercedes would have likely cost him his seat with the Silver Arrows squad.

Bottas secured three wins with Mercedes in his maiden year with the German team but followed that up with a winless campaign and a low-key fifth place finish in the 2018 drivers’ standings.

However, the Finn stepped up his performance at the outset in 2019, adding four wins to his track record in F1 and finishing runner-up in the world championship to teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas insists his productive season went a long way towards restoring his mental strength and passion for his job, but more importantly it also guaranteed a fourth year with Mercedes.

“If I’ve had a similar season to 2018, I don’t think the team would have continued with me,” he candidly admitted. “That’s how Formula 1 works.

“It’s so important for me and also for my general well-being,” he told Motorsport.com.

“I’ve had much more fun between the races now, and kind of fell in love with the sport, which I maybe lost a little bit towards the end of last year.

“Now I can happily say again I have many, many years in front of me, and hopefully still with that same development.”

Bottas endured a bit of a mid-season lull this year in terms of relative performance, but nothing that compared to the muted four-race stint that marked the end of 2018, and which put him off track.

“I’m definitely in a very different mindset compared to last year,” he said.

“I was counting down the days that the season will be done, and that I can find a way to get myself back together and start fresh from zero again.

“The last month of last season, that felt like a long, long time.”

©Mercedes

The 30-year-old had a few engine issues to contend with in the closing stages of 2019, specifically in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. But overall, Bottas final stretch was strong and left the Finn with a good feeling heading into 2020.

“It’s nicer, and an easier way mentally to start the season,” he said. “I feel it’s important to have good results, not only in the last few races.

“It’s not 100% necessary, because I know that even after a bad season, you can start a new season strong.

“But it is just nicer, and also for the team to know that I can perform for the whole year, on every single race track, and then they know that I’m definitely upward for 2020.”

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Bottas: ‘Feels like someone else’ won in Australia

Valtteri Bottas still has a “surreal” feeling about his season-opening win in Australia, saying it felt like someone else was driving the Mercedes car.

Bottas’ win in Melbourne still ranks as his highlight of the year and his “best race ever” but it did not feel real for the Finn who would go on to win another three races in 2019 at Baku, Suzuka and Austin.

“It’s still Melbourne,” Bottas told Autosport when asked for his best moment of 2019.

“The race I had. It is weird, when I think about it, it feels like it was someone else.

“It was surreal. It just felt too easy.

“It’s a funny feeling, so that was definitely my best race ever, best Sunday ever.

“And I wasn’t on the pole, so I had a good start from second place and I got the lead there.”

Although Bottas is continuing to play second best to Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, he does feel he is continuing to improve and head in the right direction for 2020.

“The goal is always to try and go further ahead with your performance, and from 2017 that’s why 2018 felt such a disappointing season, because I almost felt like it was a step backwards,” he added.

“Now it’s on the right way, I can see a little bit the improvements and gains I’ve been able to make as a driver and the amount I’ve been able to learn, within this year and from last year.

“It is a very nice feeling to see that actually the hard work is at some point paying off.

“When I look at the season, of course, when Lewis secured the title, the initial feeling was disappointment, because I knew it’s game over again, and I kind of failed in my goal.

“But very quickly, the race [win] helped as well, to keep the good feeling.

“I look at this season in a very positive way, because of all the learning I’ve been able to do.”

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‘Bottas 2.77’ to be unleashed in 2020

Valtteri Bottas will release version “2.77” as he looks to stop Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton winning a seventh title in 2020.

The Finn enjoyed his best season in Mercedes colours in 2019, finishing P2 in the Championship, but when Bottas 2.0 showed up and dominated in Melbourne, it seemed like much more was possible.

Instead Hamilton slowly but surely ground down his team-mate’s title challenge, and Bottas has been forced to go away and formulate a new plan.

And it seems “Bottas 2.77” is what he’s come up with, though he expects the challenges from outside Mercedes to be much more fierce in 2020.

“The fact is, I think competition is only going to get tougher between the top three teams,” Bottas told Autosport.com.

“So, for sure beating Lewis is always hard, but it means also beating the other drivers.

“But I know I have the speed in me and the ability so I don’t think I need to make any miracles.

“I need to fine-tune everything – so, let’s say ‘Bottas 2.77′, maybe.”

Further wins in Baku, Japan and Austin made 2019 Bottas’ most successful F1 season to date, so he rightly feels that he has taken a big step forward.

“It’s been a very good year of improvement all around,” he explained.

“Every part of what it takes to be a complete driver, what makes the difference to get the wins and the results, and I just need to continue the progress really with the team.

“I’ve been learning a lot about myself for sure from last year to this year, and from all the mistakes from last year. It’s been helping me to be a better driver.

“Obviously I’ve had many weekends this year that could have been a lot better, so there are many points we are going to review with the team and find the causes, why the pace was not there or why I did a mistake.

“We will really go deep into details and again I can learn from those.

“I can’t really point out one thing [we’ll look at] except the consistency of the season with my performance, what affects that, and that’s more in the fine details [that] I need to go through with the team.”

In the meantime, Bottas joked that his winter break from F1 will consist of “eating lots more porridge and looking for a porridge sponsor”.

There is of course his rally exploits too after the Finn won the Rallycircuit event at Paul Ricard in a Citroen DS3 WRC.

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Bottas on how he can topple Hamilton in 2020

Valtteri Bottas will take another crack at trying to stop his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in 2020, and he has a plan.

The Finn brought his 2019 campaign to and end with a solid recovery drive in Abu Dhabi, starting P20 but coming home P4 under a second behind Charles Leclerc.

It was another reminder of the performance Bottas does have, but too often this season that Bottas 2.0 which showed up and dominated in the season-opening Australian GP has gone missing.

And, if Bottas wants to finally become the No.1 man at Mercedes next season, then he knows he must perform consistently at his top level like team-mate Hamilton who picked up his sixth World Championship in 2019.

“I need more consistency over the season. Lewis is always there, performing at his top level every single qualifying and race,” Bottas told Sky Sports.

“I’ve been there most of the time, but not every single race weekend and I need to find the balance in everything and find ways to be at my best more often.

“I’m sure I can find it somehow, and as a driver I’m sure there are still many things I can do better and improve a lot from this year.

“I’ll be working a lot over the winter so I’m sure I can make a step forward next year.

“I have good confidence now from this season, and even though I finished fourth, it’s another great result with the Mercedes car.”

Bottas enjoyed his ascent through the pack in Abu Dhabi, even having to complete his early moves with no DRS due to a glitch in the system.

And although he narrowly missed out on making the podium, Bottas still put it down as one of his best races of the season.

“It was a pretty tough race, I was really giving it everything I could,” he said.

“I have to say it was pretty good fun coming from the back, we had a really strong car but it wasn’t the easiest race.

“We did nearly the first 20 laps without any DRS, that made it more difficult to make progress through the field, but I tried and feel like I couldn’t have done anything more, so that’s why I feel pretty satisfied about today.

“It would have been nice to have been on the podium, but I gave it my all and that’s what matters.

“It was one of my best races of the season.”

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