F1 2015 Driver Review: Valtteri Bottas

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Valtteri Bottas

Team: Williams Martini Racing
Car No.: 77
Races: 18
Podiums: 2
Best Finish: 3rd (Canada, Mexico)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 136
Laps Led: 1
Championship Position: 5th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Valtteri Bottas had a great deal of pressure placed upon him in the off-season after a breakthrough year with Williams in 2014. If anyone was going to come through and win his first grand prix in 2015, it surely had to be the Finn.

And although Williams was still comfortably the third-fastest team, Bottas struggled to emulate his achievements of the previous year. This was partly due to the improvement from Ferrari and the bulletproof consistency of Sebastian Vettel as the third fastest driver, but Bottas just wasn’t ‘there’ as much this year.

One chance to challenge Mercedes came and went at Silverstone, leaving Bottas to otherwise battle with teammate Felipe Massa and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen throughout the year, ordinarily over fourth or fifth place. Bottas’ run-ins with Raikkonen were a particularly interesting subplot towards the end of the year, but could not edge out the Ferrari driver for P4 in the drivers’ championship.

It was an unspectacular year for Bottas that may have cooled Ferrari’s interest in him as a possible replacement for Raikkonen. However, he is still the best man to lead Williams in the future, and will be keen to make up for 2015’s disappointment next year.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo were the revelations of the 2014 season but both fell down to earth a little bit in 2015. In Bottas’ case, you got the sense that because Williams Martini Racing provided a pleasant zero-to-hero 2013-to-2014 turnaround story last year, more was expected this year, and thus the burden of expectations limited the positive feeling by comparison.

The Finn’s year wasn’t bad, all told. He was top-five in the points again for a second straight year, still with podiums (two of them) and again finishing ahead of teammate Felipe Massa. But there was a points drop of 50 year-to-year and there was never a sense that Bottas, or Massa, was ever in a position to overachieve to the same degree. The best chance came when the two ran 1-2 early at Silverstone, and in a damned if they did, damned if they didn’t circumstance, Williams didn’t even podium.

Incidentally, the story of Bottas’ year will be the comparison with his Finnish countryman Kimi Raikkonen. It was Bottas who was suggested as a replacement for Raikkonen at Ferrari mid-year, which turned out as a false dawn. Then respective clashes with Raikkonen at Russia and Mexico City seemed the most intriguing part of both races. He got speared at Sochi; he inadvertently contacted him at Mexico City and went on to the podium. It was his second-best season to date but you hope 2014 #BOTTAS will return in 2016.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).