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Posted by GreyBull [CHA]

Rising F1 star: A look on LFSer Valtteri "Vale" Bottas' career

If you follow Formula One - and if you have an interest in simracing, you probably do, to some extend - you may have heard the news of young Finnish prodigy Valtteri Bottas racing for Williams F1 in 2013. Bottas' name might still be obscure to F1 circles, but his reputation is great in the junior racing world, where he has taken many prestigious titles since his car racing career kicked off in 2007.

A more unknown part of Valtteri's recent past is his short lived interest in the Live For Speed simulator. The Finn started racing on S2 under the "Vale" LFSW-name, around August 2006, when LFS was still a hot name in the growing simracing world. Hard to find much traces of Bottas' LFS appearances though, apart from a global online distance several kilometres shy of 25,000, a short membership at the powerhouse spdoRacing team, a few respectable PBs, and an impressive race win at the Open Wheel Racing League - in an FOX, not a very different car from the Formula Renault 2.0 he was racing back then. Bottas' meteoric LFS involvement stopped a few months later, as "Vale" discretely stepped away from the LFS scene in late 2007.

A look on Valtteri's junior career

After a couple of Finnish karting titles, Valtteri started his car racing career in 2007, in Formula 2.0 NEC. A year later, he took the Formula 2.0 Eurocup title at 19, putting himself on a long list of successful drivers, including Jason Plato, Felipe Massa, Augusto Farfus, or Kamui Kobayashi. He then competed in Formula 3 Euro Series, earning 3rd in both 2009 and 2010, but most notably being the first ever driver to win back-to-back Zandvoort Masters of F3.

Then came 2011, and a difficult career decision for Bottas. Instead of moving up to GP2 or F3.5, the young Finn was forced in a lateral move to GP3, which could arguably seen as a downgrade from F3, back then. Valtteri had a difficult season start, as his team Lotus-ART was hampered by setup issues. After 4 rounds, he was stuck in a very disappointing 10th place overall. However, after one of the most impressive come-back in recent memories, Valtteri blitzed his way to the top, scoring wins at Hockenheim, Hungaroring, Spa and Monza. He then clinched the second ever GP3 title with 1 race to spare, with a 7 points advantage on his nearest rival and team-mate James Calado.

His strong junior series track-record motivated Williams F1 to give him a Friday morning testing role for 15 Grand Prix week-ends in 2012. Valtteri would turn laps in the first official practice session in each of those week-ends, quietly gaining experience among the full-time Formula 1 runners. The Finn had already been on contract with Williams for 2 years at this point, but the strict testing rules meant that he couldn't get much track time until 2012.

On Wednesday November 28th 2012, Williams F1 announced that Valtteri Bottas would compete as a full-time driver in the 2013 Formula One season, alongside Pastor Maldonado. This is not only a key moment in Valtteri's career, but also one in Williams' quest to reach the top again. The Grove-based team had showed an impressive pace during their 2012 campaign, but unfortunately pay drivers Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna failed to translate the FW34's great potential into consistent top 5 finishes. The team finished at a mediocre 8th place at the Manufacturers' World Championship, with only Maldonado's shock Spanish win as significant break-through. The preference of Bottas over better funded drivers show a will from Sir Frank's team to have a home-grown driver, willing to steer the squad in the right direction, and committed to that challenge on long term. It will be tough for Valtteri to be in the pace straight away, though, having not raced since September 2011.