SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One has a new Finnish iceman on top of the podium.
Valtteri Bottas kept his cool under pressure in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix to claim his first F1 victory, swooping past Sebastian Vettel for the lead on the first lap, and keeping the hard-charging German behind him on the final lap.
“When I drive, there’s not much emotion in there,” Bottas said after his win. “I’m just trying to get everything right and get every lap, every corner perfect.”
Bottas joins an illustrious list of Finnish winners, including Kimi Raikkonen who joined Bottas on the podium after finishing third. Raikkonen has long been nicknamed “The Iceman” for his cool demeanor, but Bottas showed he can be just as chilled. Long considered a potential winner, he’d made the podium 11 times before with Williams and Mercedes, but the top step was always just out of reach.
Bottas doesn’t go in for wild celebration, but he radiated calm satisfaction with a job well done.
“Hearing the Finnish national anthem is something quite special for me,” he said. “I always trust in my ability but it’s nice to get a confirmation.”
Just like Raikkonen, Bottas can occasionally get irritated by well-meaning advice from his team over the radio, and that happened Sunday.
“I had to ask for a bit more radio silence from the guys on the pit wall,” he said, “just for me to get on it and focus for it, and to feel a bit more like home. Nice and quiet, and that helped.”
A country of 5.5 million people, Finland has long punched far above its weight in international motorsport.
Just eight Finns have ever started a Formula One race. Of those, seven have made the podium at least once, five have won a race and three – Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Raikkonen – became world champions.
Last year’s champion, Nico Rosberg, raced as a German but is the son of 1982 champion Keke.
It was his decision to retire in the winter that opened the door for Bottas to move to Mercedes from Williams. In his fifth Formula One season, Bottas now has a car capable of fighting for regular wins and hopes Sunday will prove “the first of many.”
Sitting third in the standings after four races, could a world championship be within Bottas’ grasp?
As he said on the podium, “for me that’s the only goal in my career.”