2011 GP3 Champion and Williams’ reserve driver this season Valtteri Bottas has today been promoted to a race seat alongside Pastor Maldonado and will make his full Formula One racing debut in Australia next March. The decision has long been predicted by many, following the twenty-three year old’s impressive performances in the Williams FW34 in almost all of the Friday first practice sessions, and appears to have been on the cards for a considerable amount of time given that it was announced he would participate in FP1 before Bruno Senna secured his drive for this year.
The Finnish driver was brought into the team by current CEO Toto Wolff, when he initially acquired shares in the team in 2009, he is also has backing and support from double World Champion Mika Hakkinen and has been the talk of the paddock all season long following on from his pace shown every time he’s sat in the car. In his drives in GP3 he showed good consistency and hardly put a wheel wrong, he has carried this form over into his free practice drives and the only blemish on his copy book was a late spin into the gravel in tricky conditions at the German Grand Prix. This has given him plenty of time in the cockpit of a Formula One car, having also run at Silverstone in the Young Drivers Test that following the British Grand Prix, which could make him one of the best prepared rookies next season.
The decision to promote Bottas on a multi-year contact shows that Williams are ready to take the next step upwards in their goal to reach the top once again with the changes to the technical department having come to fruition in the shape of the FW34 being a competitive car. With the Grove-based outfit also showing profits for the first time in many years, thanks to their investments in developing hybrid technology in Qatar and the PDVSA backing brought to the team by Maldonado, they have been able to let Senna and his sponsorship go, particularly with Bottas having also been able to bring his own backing from Finland. The multi-year deal will also ensure that the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari will be unable to lure the Finn away from Grove as Sir Frank Williams and Wollf see Bottas as a long term prospect for the team given the preparation and grooming they have given him.
Despite Maldonado’s victory in Spain back in May, ending the team’s eight year win-less run, the Venezuelan driver then went on a spree of causing collisions and picking up penalties, throwing away many potential big point scoring opportunities, Bruno Senna struggled with the FW34 in qualifying in the first half of the season particularly leading to the team being passed by Sauber and Force India in the Constructors Championship despite having a superior car which was able to challenge at the front. Should Bottas get into the groove very quickly next season and be able to rack up points, and providing Maldonado continues his clean run which began from the Italian Grand Prix onwards, there is a good chance that both drivers could earn big points and challenge for podiums and victories. Should the FW35 be fast out of the box and both drivers get the maximum out of it there may be the opportunity of a 1-2 finish, a feat last achieved at the 2003 French Grand Prix.
Today’s announcement unfortunately leaves Bruno Senna currently without a drive for 2013. Despite his early season struggles, particularly struggling in qualifying, the Brazilian has shown better pace in a race putting in good performances in Hungary, India, Abu Dhabi and America. With plenty of backing from Brazil he is currently linked with Force India and Caterham, both teams who would more than welcome the money.