Q: Valtteri, you said in the press release: new everything, new team, new rules, new environment to get used to. How’s it going, six weeks in?
Valtteri Bottas: Yes, so first of all hi to everyone, glad you could make it to this special day for us as a team. Especially for me, driving the Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 Power+ for the first time, actually working together with the team on track for the first time. It’s been very special. Today was very good thanks to all the preparation we have done. Obviously, we have been massively busy since the announcement on the 16th of January, preparing for everything. I feel like we did definitely make the most out of the time we had to be ready for the start of the testing and that is still the feeling. It’s been a massive learning curve, today was as well, and we’ll keep it that way.
Q: This morning you kept asking can I go to the garage? Can I go to the garage to see that car? You’ve now seen it and you’ve driven it, what are your first impressions?
VB: Well, first of all, seeing the car, actually. I saw it a couple of days ago and yesterday at the factory and it didn’t look ready at all. But the guys were saying yeah, it will be ready. Seeing it this morning as a complete car, for me it looks amazing. Obviously I may be slightly biased – but for me it’s the best-looking car I’ve ever seen, that’s how I feel. It’s only the launch car and already it’s looking very complete, so really liking what I’ve seen. Obviously, I only started a bit more than a month ago so the team has been working so much longer with the car and they’ve done a great job on the car and on the engine. On track, everything was running very smoothly. First time on track today with the car, it’s a very good start. We had zero problems on the engine side or with the car mechanically or aerodynamically, so everything was running smoothly, checking the systems. The feeling was nice, good to feel the extra downforce. I’ve never driven a car with that much downforce, that’s for sure, so a good few laps.
Q: (Chris Stevens – Formula Spy) Valtteri, you’ve only driven in Formula One in this Pirelli / saving tyres era. I was just wondering how, in a formula that allows you to push in a lot more races, if you feel you can be just as successful or maybe even more successful and how you’ve adapted to that?
VB: I feel normally I’m pretty comfortable adapting to different things. For example, with the tyres, if the tyres are going to last longer, if you can push them harder, if you can do more qualifying-type laps in a row, it’s going to be fine for me. But again, we’re going to see on track how they’re going to behave. The tyres we used for the filming today were promo tyres, they’re not the exact race compounds, so we’re going to see a bit more next week. Let’s hope we can push them more and be more consistent. From my side, that’s OK.
Q: (Zoltan Karpathy – Autósport és Formula) My question is, with the extra G-force, with the extra load from the downforce, did you change your training regime and if so, in what respect?
VB: Over the winter, even though at the beginning of January I had no idea which car I was going to drive, we started all the training camps, everything as planned, managed to complete four training camps in total plus all the training between. We did, with my trainer Antti, modify the training programme a little bit, based on a possible increase – or most likely – increase in the loads and G-forces and that means slightly more muscular endurance rather than cycling or running, so I spent slightly more time at the gym than normal but only fine adjustments.
Q: (Sam Sheehan – Autocar) You are now driving as a teammate to one of the fastest drivers the sport has ever seen. How do you plan on beating him?
VB: Definitely it’s going to be a great challenge for me, going up against Lewis as my teammate. But at the same time we are teammates and we need to work together for the team. Obviously it’s never going to be easy to beat Lewis, that’s a fact. He’s a great driver, he’s a three-time World Champion. But I have no special plan whatsoever other than keep doing what I’m doing and that is to improve every single day as a driver. As I mentioned before, it is a very big learning curve for me. We still haven’t done a single lap together, at the same time, in a similar car, so it’s only guessing how we’re going to compare and we will find out very soon. I’m feeling good for the season and time will show how it really is – but no plan. As usual, I will do every single bit I can and trust my talent.
Q: (Unknown) Lot of speculation in the media at the moment about your contract and also your position within the team which you may well have read. What are you going to do to ensure that you’re here in one year’s time at the 2018 car launch for Mercedes?
VB: Yes, it is completely up to me really and that’s how it goes in Formula One. I was given this opportunity to race for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport and I wish that to continue. It is up to me to perform. I realise the fact completely and it has been pretty much the same situation every single season throughout my career, that the next year has been a bit unknown. So nothing changes from that way. The team is expecting me to perform, to be on the level of the car, to be fighting with Lewis and that is my goal as well. If and when the season will go well, then hopefully we can have a long future together with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, that is the intention.
Q: (Ben Anderson – Autosport) Valtteri, I wonder if you feel whether you’re at a disadvantage going into this season because you’re new to the team and also you were late in arriving at the team, given Nico Rosberg’s decision? When Lewis joined Mercedes, he said it took him a year to get fully comfortable with the team and also his car, so how difficult is it going to be for you this year?
VB: For sure it’s not an advantage, starting mid-January, with a new team. It was quite a late call but, like I said, I really feel that we have made the most out of the time that we had. I feel well prepared. Of course, starting earlier would have helped. We could have had double the time before the testing. But it’s what it is and we need to deal with it, basically. I know how beneficial it can be to be part of the team for longer. I was with Williams for seven years in total, four of those years as a race driver, and I know how much it will help that you know every single person so well and that you’re really well (integrated) in the team. But I’ve also never had problems getting to know new people and finding out the way the team is working or people are working. I’m not worried that we will see anything with this late call and short time preparing on the track – that I would not perform well because of this. I don’t see it that way. I’m confident that everything is sorted and ready but, again, mentioning one more time, that it’s going to be massively important to keep learning every day how the team operates.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) When do you think that you are ready for your first pole and for the first win? It took more than two years for Nico to get those…
VB: I’m ready for it today! Hopefully the car will good and hopefully that will be possible sooner rather than later. I think the team in theory should be in a different position to what it was when Nico joined the team. I think the team has grown up a lot since. It’s a stronger team than at that time. That’s what we’re hoping for this year as well and I definitely feel that during the four years as a race driver with Williams, fighting for podiums on many occasions in a good car, I’m definitely ready for poles and wins.
Q: (Sarah Merritt – Badger GP) I wanted to ask about fan engagement and social media. Lewis mentioned that earlier and was even streaming on Instagram live whilst he was here. What more do you think you can do to engage with the fans in that kind of way?
VB: I always try, whenever I have the time for it. Obviously, this last month has been extremely busy – but I try to read comments and somehow engage with the fans on Facebook Live and things like this. I think it is a very restricted world, Formula One, for the fans to get closes. So within the time I have available I try to do as much as possible and I have to say this team has been very good in terms of engaging fans, bringing them closer to the sport and showing more exclusive stuff. I think this area of the sport is developing massively still and hopefully there will be much more cool stuff to come for the fans.
Q: (Stephen Camp – readmotorsport.com) Given Lewis’s comments with regard to data-sharing, him saying it’s not maliciously towards you, saying that he doesn’t think you should see his data or vice versa, would you agree with him that while the team should share the data among themselves, would you want to see his data as he would want to see yours?
VB: Well, again, it doesn’t matter what I say for this because the team is going to decide whether we are and what we are going to do and that is most likely to share the data because it is for the best for the team. I’m sure there will be at every single day on track occasions that both of the drivers can find out something interesting from the data of the teammate. That is the reason and that will push the team forward, so that’s why I don’t think it is going to be banned. And if it would be, I wouldn’t mind personally if I think only of myself – but for the team it would be better.
Frage: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Wann glauben Sie, dass Sie bereit sind für die erste Pole und den ersten Sieg? Nico hat mehr als zwei Jahre dafür gebraucht...
VB: Ich bin schon heute bereit dafür! Hoffentlich wird das Auto gut und hoffentlich wird das eher früher als später möglich sein. Ich denke, das Team sollte sich theoretisch in einer anderen Position befinden als damals, als Nico zum Team gestoßen ist. Ich denke, das Team ist seitdem sehr stark gewachsen. Es ist stärker als damals. Darauf hoffen wir auch in diesem Jahr. Ich habe definitiv das Gefühl, dass ich nach den vier Jahren als Williams-Pilot, als ich mit einem guten Auto oft um Podien kämpfen konnte, bereit bin für den Kampf um Poles und Siege.
Q: (Sarah Merritt - Badger GP) Ich wollte nach Fan-Engagement und Social Media fragen. Lewis erwähnte dies früher und hat sogar via Instagram live gestreamt, während er hier war. Was kannst du noch tun, wenn um mit den Fans so in Kontakt zu treten?
VB: Ich versuche das immer, wenn ich die Zeit dafür habe. Offensichtlich war dieser letzte Monat extrem anstrenged - aber ich versuche, Kommentare zu lesen und irgendwie mit den Fans über Facebook Live und solche Dinge in Kontakt zu treten. Ich denke, die Formel 1 ist eine sehr eingeschränkte Welt, Formel 1, wenn es darum geht, die Fans näher heranzubringen. In der Zeit, die ich zur Verfügung habe, versuche ich daher, so viel wie möglich zu machen und ich muss sagen, dass dieses Team sehr gut ist in Bezug auf das Einbinden der Fans. Es bringt sie näher an den Sport und zeigt ihnen exklusivere Sachen. Ich denke, dieser Bereich des Sports entwickelt sich massiv und hoffentlich kommen noch viele coole Sachen für die Fans.
Q: (Stephen Camp - readmotorsport.com) Angesichts der Kommentare von Lewis im Hinblick auf das Teilen der Daten, indem er sagt, dass das nichts gegen Sie sein soll und dass er nicht glaube, dass Sie seine Daten sehen möchten oder umgekehrt: Würden Sie ihm zustimmen, dass während das Team die Daten unter sich teilen sollte, würden Sie auch seine Daten sehen wollen, so wie er Ihre sehen möchte?
VB: Nun, auch hier ist es egal, was ich dazu sage, weil das Team entscheidet, ob wir das machen werden. Das ist wahrscheinlich, dass wir die Daten zu teilen werden, weil es für das Beste für das Team ist. Ich bin mir sicher, dass es an jedem einzelnen Tag auf der Strecke die Gelegenheit gibt, dass beide Fahrer etwas Interessantes aus den Daten des Teamkollegen finden können. Das ist der Grund und das wird das Team nach vorne bringen. Deshalb denke ich nicht, dass es verboten wird. Und wenn es so wäre, würde es mir nichts ausmachen, wenn ich nur an mich denke - aber für das Team wäre es besser.
Q: (Jonathan Noble – motorsport.com) You mentioned earlier you can feel the downforce level increase but can you just elaborate a bit more on the early sensations in the car after the shakedown on tyres on a beautiful English day? Can you already feel that these cars are going to be a big step forward?
VB: Yes, comparing to the conditions we had today – very cold, a bit damp, so windy – I’ve never driven with this type of wind. You could definitely feel that it is a step up. I think mechanically with these tyres, the promo tyres, and these temperatures, it was difficult to feel a big difference for now. But aerodynamically you do feel there’s quite a step more load overall in the car. You just have more downforce in high speed and obviously that feels good, feels nice. But yeah, very tricky conditions to get more detailed feel. I’m sure every single car and every single driver is going to have a similar feeling when they first do their shakedown or test in Barcelona. It’s pretty cool and some of the corners are going to be massively quicker than before, so I’m looking forward to it.
Q: (Chris Medland – Racer.com) Valtteri, you’ve been asked a lot about your battle with Lewis and how you’re going to beat him and how you’re going to keep yourself in this team moving forward. Nico and Lewis had some flash points in their time together. If you are to beat him this year, is it possible to do so without those flash points between yourself and him?
VB: I think it is possible. We haven’t raced yet together in the same team but so far it’s been good and I see no reason why we couldn’t be able to work professionally as a good pair of teammates, race very hard on track but fair, work well as a team. At least from my side I see no problem why it couldn’t be possible. So yeah, obviously we will find out. But I have a good feeling about it that it will be fine.