Valtteri Bottas is determined to end the 2015 Formula 1 season on a high by hanging on to fourth place in the drivers’ championship at next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Bottas enters the final race of the year just one point clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the standings.
Despite not having any major honors to fight for in Abu Dhabi, Bottas insists that he is still determined to finish the year as high as possible in the championship and keep Raikkonen behind him.
“I know many people would say it’s not important to finish fourth, fifth, or sixth in the championship but I don’t look at it that way,” Bottas wrote in his Williams blog.
“For me every position is important. I want to finish as high up in the championship as possible and, for me, that’s the way to go.
“It’s certainly going to be close in Abu Dhabi because whoever finishes in front of the other will get that fourth place.
“It’s going to be an exciting race, for sure. We were very competitive there last year, so let’s hope it will be the same in two weeks.”
The Bottas/Raikkonen battle has been one of the recurring battles of the second half of the year that has seen them come together on track twice.
In Russia, Raikkonen punted Bottas into the wall on the last lap as he tried to pass for third place, but the Ferrari driver retired in Mexico after another incident with his compatriot.
Bottas enters the final race of the year with only himself to look after after Williams clinched third in the constructors’ championship in Brazil.
“At the end of what was not a very exciting race for me, our results secured third place in the constructors’ Championship for Williams and that was something to celebrate,” Bottas said.
“Even for the drivers, the result in the constructors’ championships means a lot because it’s nice to secure the best possible position. It’s the same final position as last year, so I’m proud that even with a smaller team we can fight with the biggest teams.
“That’s good but we all want more. We need to say thank you to all the people in the race team and at the factory for all the hard work, but also to Mercedes for their engines. Without them we couldn’t do this, but we are a team that wants to win, so we want more.”
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”