Valtteri Bottas enjoyed a productive rally debut, claiming a stage win and finishing P5 overall in the Arctic Lapland Rally.
The Mercedes driver, partnered by Marcus Gronholm’s long-time navigator Timo Rautiainen, drove a Ford Fiesta WRC as he looked to begin 2019 with a new challenge on the snowy roads of Lapland.
Bottas’ WRC-spec Fiesta enjoyed a slight power advantage over the R5 machinery of his direct rivals, most of which were driving cars from the World Championship’s WRC2 category.
Similarly to his Formula 1 characteristics, Bottas chose a conservative approach at the outset but by Friday afternoon he was up to P5, locked in a fierce battle with P4 Skoda Fabia driver Henrik Pietarinen.
Bottas’ highlight came as he went fastest on the short 2.17-mile Mäntyvaara stage, beating his rival by 2.3s.
Ultimately, The Arctic Lapland Rally was won by Emil Lindholm driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
We finished my first ever rally 5th overall with a stage win today 🚙❄️
Tricky & enjoyable stages, so much fun @arcticlaplandrally 🇫🇮
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) January 26, 2019
Bottas now has a little under seven weeks before the 2019 Formula 1 season begins, where he will look to repair the damage of a difficult 2018.
After becoming the first Mercedes driver to finish a season without a win since Michael Schumacher in 2012, Bottas retained his seat and the trust of boss Toto Wolff.