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Valtteri Bottas

Exclusive: Bottas on new F1 era, evolution in the sport and sim racing

Valtteri Bottas is one of the drivers diligently seeking a new contract for next year. The Finn is eager to continue in Formula One, especially given the major rule change coming in 2026. RacingNews365 spoke exclusively with Bottas about those changes, among other things.

Bottas Saudi Arabia
Interview
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Valtteri Bottas is in his 12th season in Formula 1. After very successful periods at Williams and Mercedes, where he managed several podiums and even 10 Grand Prix victories, the Finn has had to make do with a place in the rear for a few years now. 

At Stake F1, Bottas has been unable to get anywhere near the points this season. The 34-year-old Finn himself also recognises that it has been a difficult start to the year for him and his team, but remains positive nonetheless.

"It has been a difficult start, in which unfortunately we have not been able to score yet," Bottas told RacingNews365 in an exclusive interview in Monaco. "But we still have a long way to go and the differences are small. 

"I think we will see a different ranking on each track, sometimes in our favor and sometimes not. So we're not giving up yet, because we also know that we still have something in the pipeline."

Though it looks more and more like Stake F1 has had to take a pass in the development battle against the competition, could Bottas' experience finally be the deciding factor in steering the team in the right direction? 

According to Bottas himself, yes. "You always have influence, there is no doubt about that. But both drivers have that. But especially the more advanced simulation technologies and the wind tunnel play a bigger role in the overall performance. 

"In the search for tuning and balance of the car, the driver has more influence. We have good people in-house who manage the mechanical side. That's going to make a difference."

2026 as a dot on the horizon

Looking at the results, a clear pattern can be seen at Stake F1 and the former Alfa Romeo. The team began 2022, with the onset of ground-effect regulations as one of the better teams in the midfield. 

In the first nine races, Bottas took points seven times. That even included a fifth-place finish at Imola, just six-tenths behind George Russell in the Mercedes. The team seemed to have understood the rules well, but from Canada on it only got worse. 

In the 13 races that would follow, Bottas picked up only two more points. It resulted in a 10th place finish in the drivers' championship for the Finn. 

But the downward spiral did not end there, as Alfa Romeo also barely got it right in 2023. The season still began with a handsome eighth-place finish in Bahrain, but the Finn would bring in only three point finishes after that race. 

Again this year, Stake F1 does not seem to be getting anywhere near the points. Not surprisingly, Bottas is looking forward to the upcoming rule changes in 2026. 

"From what I have seen so far, I think they have chosen the right direction," said Bottas. "The cars will be a bit narrower, which I think is a good plan.

"I also hope the weight will be less, because that would make some difference. And about the engines, I haven't tested anything in the simulator yet, but I've heard the stories that they still need a lot of work. Apparently they still have too many hiccups on the straights, but that will be fixed."

Despite there still being a lot of work to do towards 2026 and the fact Bottas does not yet have a contract for that season, the Finn is looking forward to the upcoming generation of F1 cars. 

"Of course! A new era for Formula One, where everyone starts from scratch again. So 2026 is going to be very interesting," he said.

New car brands

Since the announcement of the new regulations in 2026, more and more car brands have shown interest in Formula 1. For example, Bottas' current team, Stake F1, will be known as an Audi factory team in 2026. 

It seems like the beginning of a new era in F1, something Bottas welcomes immensely. 

"I think this sport needs an evolution," views the Finn. "I do like to see that evolution and change. It also gives teams the opportunity to go off the beaten track and try something different. And also with the big car manufacturers now showing interest, it's only going to get more interesting."

With the upcoming changes, the role of teams' simulators is also becoming increasingly important. The digitisation of the world has also meant that sim racing has become more accessible than ever to many people, something that can teach young talent the basics of racing. 

Bottas, who grew up in a completely different time period, does see the youth getting many benefits from the simulator. 

"It helps, you learn the basics in the simulator and certainly online racing can be very useful," Bottas explained. "It keeps you, in a way, on your toes. 

"I think for young drivers going towards Formula 4 or Formula 3, for example, where testing is hugely expensive, it's an almost free experience you get. And you can do it in more and more places," Bottas concluded.

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