It's been a tough year at Williams, as the team's Finn explained to Abhishek Takle
GPWeek: We're halfway through the season. How would you say you've performed so far?
VALTTERI BOTTAS: I think without looking at the car performance, if I analyse myself, I can be reasonably happy with the first half because it's still my first season. I've been matching Pastor, more or less. We've been very close the whole season, so I think it's been good. He's a good reference for me as a teammate, because everyone knows he's quick and he's won a race. But you know, there's always things I'm learning all the time and when I look back, there's things you could have done better. But that's part of learning and it's been okay.
So when you look back and you talk about learning, what are the areas you feel you need to improve on in the second half of the year in terms of your driving?
I cannot say any one area, really. I think there's everything we can improve, from setting up the car to qualifying performance, race starts, first lap of the race, tyre management… There are so many things. But for me there have been no surprises or problem areas. I just need to keep working on all the areas.
What is it about Finland? You've got so many quick drivers - Keke, Mika, Kimi and now you're one of the highlyrated youngsters coming through. Is it something you guys put in the water?
It's a motorsport country, and I think the level of go-karting is very high in Finland. That's the one thing I remember. When I was doing karting it was so competitive, there were so many good drivers and the Finnish championship was strong, so everyone wanted to beat each other. Maybe our mentality can also help little bit, where in general we're quite calm, so I think it helps in Formula One with a lot of pressure and everything.
When it comes to this year's car, was it particularly frustrating - because last year the car won a race and then this is your big shot this year - was it frustrating to find the car was not on the pace?
I think frustrating is too strong a word for that. I think the fact is that everyone in the factory - including us drivers - were not expecting to be in this position. And we were hoping to make a step from last year. It didn't happen. So all we can do is keep working even harder to try to solve the problems.
But what are the main problems? You drove last year's car quite a lot in the practice sessions and now this year's car. What is the main difference? Is it the confidence you have in the car, is it a general lack of grip? How is it different to drive this year?
I think our car is sometimes quite difficult to drive, a bit unpredictable sometimes. But I think compared to last year we are more or less now on the same level, even could be a bit better. It's just a fact that everyone else has improved so much in the last year and we kind of didn't. The base, the start level for this year wasn't good enough, so that's the problem. But you know next year there are going to be big rule changes and hopefully then we have time to catch up with the others.
Qualifying pace in particular has been a problem this year with the car. Do you think the new tyres might help you start a few positions higher up and aim for points?
We have to see. We hope so. I think there's not going to be big changes, but for sure these new tyres are not going to hurt us, from what we saw in testing. I haven't tried these yet so we have to see, but for sure it's not going to hurt us.
Would it make sense now, given we're already halfway through the season, to just stop developing this car and focus all energies on 2014?
There is the limit at some point when we need to focus on next year's car, but it's not up to me. It's up to other people to decide that so, yeah, difficult to say. I think it's still important to push with this car, try to still understand a bit more about the problems but, yeah, I think the team should be making decisions soon.
As a driver obviously your feedback is key to developing the car, but when it comes to these decisions about allocating resources to this year or next year, how much of an input do you have in these decisions?
In those kinds of decisions? Not that much, to be honest. For us as the drivers the main thing is to give feedback on the car, how it's performing, which areas we need to improve and give really detailed feedback on the set-up changes and how the car is behaving. That's about it really. Then it's up to other people to decide the rest.
Pat Symonds joining Williams now. I would say his arrival at this point in the season is too late to have a major influence on this year's car, but what's your general feeling about him coming on board?
I think the change he can make is more about the future, like next year and so on, but it's going to be interesting to work with him. I haven't met him yet, but we'll meet in August when he starts with us. He's got a good background, a lot of success in Formula One, so looking forward to that.
And are you sad to see Mike Coughlan leave? He was one of the men credited with an improvement in form last year.
It was good to work with Mike. He was a very strong person and was good at making decisions, so what he did he was good. But he decided to leave so, yeah, so I have no bad things to say about him. I enjoyed working with him.
I have to ask you this. Williams has seen a lot of changes over the past year on the management side, on the technical side. Is it a concern? Because with every new person that comes in there is a new idea, so is there a concern about stability because the car's DNA keeps changing?
There's a limit also in that. That's true. But I think the team has noticed now that definitely we need some changes, we need some new ideas. But I would think once we get some new people in it should stabilise and hopefully then we can work as a team and try to improve everything. Like you say, if we keep changing all the time maybe it can be difficult, but I'm sure the people who decide those things are aware of what they are doing.
And what about your future? What's the most likely scenario? Will we see you in Williams next year, or are you looking to attract interest from some of the bigger teams?
I really hope I can be here. And I hope that I have shown that I deserve it because I really enjoy it here. I still see the potential we have. We have all the tools to make the car much quicker than it is now. I think for me it would be a great place to continue, so let's hope so.
And you must have had a look at the run Susie [Wolff] did during the Young Driver Test and her lap times. some drivers, like Felipe [Massa], were pretty impressed with the times that she posted. What did you think of her run?
She did a solid job. I was at the test and I saw her driving and it went well considering the experience she has in Formula One. I think the team was happy with what she did. They managed to do a lot of really important tests so that was good.
Would you say she merits a certain number of Friday outings like you had last year?
It's difficult to say. Again, I cannot decide that, so…
When it comes to stepping up from a Friday drive to a race drive, in terms of the pressure, let's say when you're driving on Fridays you have to prove to the team that you deserve a race seat but when you step up to a race seat, you've got the media glare, you've got the fans, and any failures you might have are very public. How different is the experience, the pressure you have to deal with?
It is of course different. I think of all the categories so far Formula One is a different level with the pressure, but it's never been really a problem for me. Because I've always said to myself - and I think it's a fact - all you can do is your best, and it's about you. But how much you follow those things, what people say about you, I think it's better to just focus on what you're really doing yourself and focus on doing your job the best you can because that's all you can do.
The summer break is coming up. Are you looking forward to getting away from Formula One for a bit?
Not really, no. I prefer just to keep driving. But we have to have a bit of a holiday sometimes, I guess. But I'm not really a holiday person. One week, maybe, is okay and then I'm always itching to get back in the car.