Bottas fired up to add Guia title to feather his crowded cap
Third time lucky is the fervent wish of Finland's Valtteri Bottas, who will return to the Guia circuit intent on winning next weekend's coveted Formula Three Macau Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old has come close in the past two years, finishing fifth in 2009 and third last year. It would be a fitting feather in a crowded cap which includes the GP3 championship title and other F3 3 triumphs in the ultra-competitive Euro Series over the past couple of seasons.
'It would be a very nice addition to the CV if I can win this time. Everyone knows how difficult it is to win the Formula Three race in Macau,' said Bottas, who has set a goal of becoming the next big driver to come out of Finland.
With a population of just over five million, Finland punches way above its weight in the world of motorsports. It has an incredible record with 14 World Rally Championship titles (Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen with four apiece leading the way), and another four in Formula One (two for Mika Hakkinen, and one each for Keke Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen). Bottas is eager to add his name to this illustrious list.
'I hope I can be the next Finn to become a Formula One champion. That is my ultimate ambition,' said Bottas, who will lead the twin challenge of the Galaxy Double R Racing team, whose other driver is Marko Asmer.
'It will need a lot of hard work and I need to be fully committed to achieve this goal. Winning in Macau is not going to change my career plans drastically, but for me personally it is very important that I win.'
Bottas' dreams of making it big in Formula One received a huge fillip when the Williams team asked him to be their number one test driver last year. He took his responsibilities so seriously he moved his residence lock, stock and barrel from Finland to base himself in Oxford, a short journey from the Williams' factory. 'I wanted to be close to the team so I could do a lot more simulator driving at the factory and give me the chance to learn more about the car.'
The dedication and professionalism Bottas brings has earned him rave reviews from people who have worked with him closely.
'Valtteri is an extremely gifted, fast and very talented driver on a technical level,' said Frederic Vasseur, boss of the French Lotus ART team for whom the Finnish ace landed the GP3 crown this season. 'He is extremely fast, focused and mentally strong and is also a charming and intelligent human being.'
It all began by chance. His father was no motor racing buff but, as fate would have it, he stopped at a kart race at Lahti when Bottas was five and decided to have a look. It was a decision that would have a lasting effect on Bottas. 'We spent all day watching the racing. I was completely transfixed and my dad told me it was the first time he had ever seen me sit still,' Bottas said.
'When I saw the go-karts racing on the track I just wanted to try one immediately. Several months later, I got my chance and that was it.'
Bottas did not get the green light from his dad that day simply because his legs did not reach the pedals. But once he had grown a few more inches, his adventure began. It led to many race successes, many championships and a seven-year stint in the national karting squad.
After winning three top kart titles in 2006, Bottas switched to cars and began his single-seater career in Formula Renault, taking the pathway many famous drivers had tread before him. In 2008, he won 17 races from 28 starts and the Eurocup and Northern European Cup titles that vaulted him into Formula Three racing, where he drove for multiple-title winning French team ART. It also earned him a first appearance in Macau in 2009.
'I have many good memories of the track. The circuit is very challenging. I remember the quick qualifying laps where you are pushing the car to the maximum and you go very close to the walls all the time.
'Racing in Macau is more challenging than in normal circuits. You can't afford to make a mistake as you will then end up in the wall so you need to be 100 per cent focused all the time. I like the track also because overtaking is possible so it makes racing more exciting.'
Bottas will still spend Thursday and Friday getting re-acquainted with the treacherous 6.2-kilometre Guia circuit and readying himself for the crucial 10-lap qualifying race on Saturday, which will decide the grid positions. A top slot in the grid for Sunday's 15-lap race is vital if Bottas wants to use Macau as a stepping stone for bigger things.
In 2007, current Lotus Renault Formula One driver Bruno Senna drove in the Galaxy colours, also for Double R racing team. Just six months after Galaxy Macau - the 'New Palace of Asia' - opened, it is once more back in the race. Leading driver Bottas hopes history will repeat and he will follow Senna into Formula One. 'That is my goal, first to become an F1 driver, and then one day to be the F1 world champion,' said Bottas.