How He Got There

Let’s put a hand together for a 27 year old who just won his first F1 race after more than 80 attempts. Valtteri Bottas, take a bow. Who is this late bloomer and how did he get here?

Under every Finn is a shark (in a kart).

First things first: Bottas was born. It was 1989 in Finland. According to meteorological records, it was cold. At the tender age of 5, Valtteri saw his first go-kart race and loved the excitement of the speed and the passing. He immediately tried to go for a ride himself but couldn’t find a kart small enough so that he could reach the pedals! A year later, he got into his first kart.

Like many children, Valtteri did not take school very seriously and instead focused on his twin loves of hockey (first) and karting (second). In ninth grade, Valtteri was studying to be a car mechanic but racing karts very seriously on the side. He was overweight, which was a big disadvantage in karting, where the driver may weigh as much as the car. So young Valtteri decided he was going to lose that weight and he starting training.

Success came for the kid who worked so hard. He finn-ished 8th in the 2005 Karting World Cup. He moved from karts to racing cars in 2007 and won cups immediately and again in 2008.

Toto Wolff, who was then the Williams director, recognized Bottas’s talent and became his manager. Valtteri made the leap to F3 in 2009, became a Williams test driver in 2011 and debuted as a full time driver for Williams in F1 in 2013.

Valtteri’s mother is an undertaker and his father owns a small cleaning company, so Bottas didn’t have the money or lineage that would provide natural explanations for his current seat in the world’s most prestigious racing series. Finland, however, is known for its race car drivers, perhaps because there isn’t much else to do when you aren’t fighting off a Russian invasion and you can only play hockey so much, even in Finland.

Let’s hope we see more podiums out of this latest in the line of Finnish greats.

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