Still hungry to succeed, Bottas continues to prefer to let his driving do the talking

With an ice-cool gaze and a remarkable ability to keep calm in high-pressure situations, Valtteri Bottas is not unlike other famous Finns that have come before him in Formula 1.

Of course, there is Mika Hakkinen, can boast winning back-to-back world titles in 1998-99 at a time when Michael Schumacher was threatening to dominate the sport, but the most recent F1 star that Finland produced — prior to Bottas’ arrival on the scene — was Kimi Raikkonen.

A world champion with Ferrari in 2007, Raikkonen first caught the attention by displaying similar traits to the compatriot that came before him, and likewise, Bottas’ racing ability — and personality — has also proven comparable to his Finnish predecessors.

But while Raikkonen at times seemed disdainful of the scrutiny that came with being an F1 driver, Bottas’ similar avoidance of the attention — and the perception that he is likewise a man of few words — is one that perhaps stems more out of indifference.

While his counterparts are emotional, even theatrical, and cater to a whole new generation of fans with other interest off the circuit, Bottas remains quite happy to simply let his driving do the talking for him.

“I see no reason (for it be otherwise),” he told ESPN. “Other drivers have other interests and that’s fine but (for me) driving is the thing that matters in the sport.”

The Alfa Romeo driver was speaking to ESPN ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, on the sidelines of a closed-door event at the flagship store of PUMA — the team’s official race gear supplier — situated along the country’s famed Orchard Road shopping belt.

This weekend’s Singapore GP marks the first time Formula 1 will grace the Asian nation since the coronavirus pandemic forced the 2020 and 2021 races to be cancelled.

Since then, glamorous new venues have been introduced, threatening to usurp what was once called “the crown jewel” of the F1 calendar but also a race that has faced criticism for not exactly being a racing spectacle — given overtaking on the Marina Bay Street Circuit is notoriously difficult.

So is Bottas a fan of the Singapore GP?

“It’s definitely nice to be back,” said the 33-year-old. “When I arrived and saw the scenery of the city with the lights and the buildings, it’s a cool place to be: the original F1 night race.

“And then, seeing all the fans who are very excited to have us back, I’m very excited too.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s a tough one — an extremely difficult track — you feel the pain at the end of the race. I’ve only been on the podium once before but I look forward to it. It’s always quite an unpredictable race with safety cars and stuff.

“It is important (to have a race like the Singapore GP). It’s always nice to have certain standard tracks on the calendar but also something different like this. Also visually, it’s a beautiful place. For the cameras, it’s a dream place.

“So yes, it has its place on the calendar.”

For Bottas, 2022 has proven to be an eventful one in his first year with Alfa Romeo following five seasons with Mercedes, in which they won the constructors championship each year.

With 46 points to his name alone, the Finn has already outscored by more than three times what Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi — as well as reserve driver Robert Kubica — achieved in 2021.

Nonetheless, the past seven races have not only seen him finish outside the points positions, but also included three retirements.

Overall though, for someone who does not seek being in the spotlight, it has been quite a nice change of scenery for Bottas after his time driving for a title contender alongside a seven-time world champion in Lewis Hamilton.

Although that does not necessarily mean his hunger to succeed has diminished.

“The start of the season was really, really positive,” he added. “We were scoring points consistently. Recently, we’ve had quite a few issues with the reliability.

“So with the development of the car, we’ve also started to look at the year ahead. But we’re still looking to end the season strong.

“It’s been different, coming from quite a high-pressure environment — which is the case fighting for titles. At the moment (with Alfa Romeo), it’s more of aiming to be strong in the years to come, so it’s a different approach.

“Still, I’m really motivated and of course there’s still the possibility (to do well at present).

“I think the trick is to try and reduce any outside pressure and trying to use the own pressure you give yourself. You do want to succeed so there needs to be an overlying pressure within.

“But over time, with more races and season, you learn how to take life not as seriously sometimes. And it’s so important to enjoy the sport.

“It doesn’t last forever so you need to make the most out of every single day. It is a team sport so it’s really important to do things together as a team, and I’m really enjoying it at the moment.”

For a man with a reputation for saying few words, Bottas certainly had plenty to say. Intelligently and engagingly.

And with another one of his media commitments — which he deems “part of the job” — completed, he broke out into the warmest of smiles and offered a friendly fist bump.

Ice cool but far from cold. Quiet but hardly silent.

As he did while praising Singapore — both the city and the grand prix – in glowing terms, as well as when touching on the hunger to succeed that remains within him, Bottas can certainly speak up when he has to.

He just prefers to let his driving to the talking for the most part.

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