With an icy gaze and a remarkable ability to maintain composure in high-pressure situations, Valtteri Bottas is reminiscent of other famous Finns who came before him in Formula 1.
Sure, there’s Mika Hakkinen, who can boast back-to-back world titles in 1998-99 at a time when Michael Schumacher threatened to dominate the sport, but Finland’s newest F1 star – before Bottas arrived on the scene — was Kimi Raikkonen.
A world champion with Ferrari in 2007, Raikkonen first caught the eye by displaying traits similar to those of his compatriot who preceded him, and likewise Bottas’ racing ability – and personality – stood out. also proved to be comparable to its Finnish predecessors.
But while Raikkonen sometimes seemed dismissive of the scrutiny that comes with being an F1 driver, Bottas’ similar avoidance of attention – and the perception that he is also a man of few words – in is perhaps one that stems perhaps more from indifference.
While his counterparts are emotional, even theatrical, and cater to a whole new generation of fans with other interests off the circuit, Bottas remains happy enough to just let his drive do the talking.
“I don’t see any reason (for it to be otherwise),” he told ESPN. “Other drivers have other interests and that’s good but (for me) driving is the thing that matters in the sport.”
The Alfa Romeo driver spoke to ESPN ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, on the sidelines of a closed-door event at the flagship store of PUMA – the team’s official racing gear supplier – located along the famous shopping belt of Orchard Road.
This weekend’s Singapore GP marks the first time Formula 1 will grace the Asian nation since the coronavirus pandemic forced the 2020 and 2021 races to be cancelled.
Since then, new glamorous venues have been introduced, threatening to usurp what was once called ‘the crown jewel’ of the F1 calendar, but also a race that has been criticized for not being exactly a racing spectacle – given the overtaking on the Marina Bay Street The circuit is notoriously difficult.
So is Bottas a fan of the Singapore GP?
“It’s really nice to be back,” said the 33-year-old. “When I arrived and saw the city landscape with the lights and the buildings, it’s a cool place to be: the original F1 night race.
“And then, seeing all the fans who are very excited to have us back, I’m very excited too.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s a tough track – an extremely tough track – you feel the pain at the end of the race. I’ve only been on the podium once before but I I can’t wait to be there. It’s always a pretty unpredictable race with safety cars and all that.
“It’s important (to have a race like the Singapore GP). It’s always nice to have some standard tracks on the calendar but also something different like this. Also visually it’s a beautiful place. For the cameras, it is a dream location.
“So yes, he has his place in the calendar.”
For Bottas, 2022 has proven to be eventful in his first year with Alfa Romeo after five seasons with Mercedes, during which they won the constructors’ championship every year.
With 46 points alone, the Finn has already exceeded by more than three times what Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi – as well as reserve driver Robert Kubica – achieved in 2021.
Nevertheless, the last seven races have not only seen him finish outside the points, but have also included three retirements.
All in all though, for someone not looking to be in the limelight, it’s been a pretty good change of scenery for Bottas after driving for a title contender alongside a seven-time world champion at Lewis Hamilton.
Although that doesn’t necessarily mean his drive to succeed has diminished.
“It’s been a really, really positive start to the season,” he added. “We were scoring consistently. Recently we’ve had quite a few reliability issues.
“So with the development of the car, we also started to look at the year ahead. But we’re still looking to finish the season strong.”
“It’s been different, coming from a fairly pressured environment, which is the case for titles. At the moment (with Alfa Romeo) it’s more about being strong in the years to come, so it’s is a different approach.
“Still, I’m really motivated and of course there’s still the possibility (to do well right now).
“I think the trick is to try to reduce any outside pressure and try to use the own pressure that you give yourself. You want to be successful, so there has to be an underlying pressure inside.
“But over time, with more races and more seasons, you learn to take life less seriously sometimes. And it’s so important to enjoy the sport.
“It doesn’t last forever, so you have to make the most of every day. It’s a team sport, so it’s very important to do things together as a team, and I’m really enjoying that at the moment. “
For a man renowned for saying few words, Bottas certainly had a lot to say. Smart and engaging.
And with another one of his media engagements – which he considers “part of the job” – over, he burst into the warmest of smiles and offered a friendly thumbs up.
Ice cold but far from cold. Quiet but barely silent.
As he has done in praising Singapore – both the city and the grand prix – in glowing terms, as well as evoking the lust for success that remains within him, Bottas can certainly speak when needed.
He just prefers to let his driving do the talking for the most part.