Exclusive Q&A: Valtteri Bottas on Alfa Romeo weakness, 100% F1 commitment, and holding out for Audi

Thomas Maher
Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas speaks to PlanetF1.com. July 2023.

Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas speaks to PlanetF1.com. July 2023.

In an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com, Valtteri Bottas shared his thoughts on the current Alfa Romeo form, and how he’s aiming to chat with Audi…

Valtteri Bottas currently occupies 15th in this year’s Drivers’ Championship, with results proving tough to come by as the Hinwil-based squad struggle for outright performance.

With Alfa Romeo-Sauber entering the home straight as a team before the handover to Audi for 2026, Bottas’ desire for a much longer F1 career makes him a likely candidate for a seat when the time comes. The Finn sat down with PlanetF1.com ahead of the British Grand Prix, to chat about his career and the changes underway at Alfa Romeo.

PF1: So Valtteri, you’re a year and a half into your contract with Alfa Romeo. Can you sum up the last 18 months and how the project is going for you?

VB: “It’s been interesting always.

“When you join a new team, there are so many new things. First of all the people, you have to get to know the way the team works.

“Then, once you start to realise the strengths and weaknesses of the team, you try to work on the weaknesses as a team.

“So it’s been like really, really interesting for me. Obviously, the start of last year was, for me, the highlight. I think we were better than what we expected, which was nice.

“But, if I look at the last year, it’s been a bit more challenging. In a nutshell, more teams managed to find more gains in the winter, than we did with the car. So that’s why it’s been a bit more challenging this season.”

PF1: Is it a case of treading water at this point, just keeping things going while waiting for the switchover from Alfa Romeo to Audi?

VB: “In this sport, you can’t wait. Otherwise, we’re going to be at the back of the grid.

“So we need to keep working and finding more but, yeah, for sure, the future plans for the team are definitely interesting and it’s going to be a big, big boost for the team, eventually.

“We have upgrades and have some in the pipeline for later in the year, so we’re trying to get to the top 10.”

PF1: Given your long history with Mercedes at their height of their dominance, where can you see the weakness within Alfa Romeo that means they can’t do what Merc could?

VB: “I think the one big thing, I would say, is human power. Still, there could be more people at the factory. I think our team is hiring all the time now, trying to recruit more as we have more resources than the team had a few years ago.

“We need more people and more talent. I think that’s the biggest thing I would say. In terms of the factory and facilities, they are there. It’s just about human performance.”

PF1: You mention people power, but obviously there have been some high-profile signings in recent months, with Andreas Seidl signed as CEO of the Sauber Group and Alessandro Alunni Bravi coming in as Team Representative. What changes have you noticed within the team since they arrived, in comparison to when Fred Vasseur was running the show?

VB: “Every leader in a team always works differently. I have to say, actually, the transition was quite smooth. I felt like it definitely wasn’t hurting us in any way.

“Andreas spent a lot of the beginning of the season observing, again, like trying to really realise what departments and what parts of the factory need shuffling or improvements, and what new jobs he needs to find for certain people.

“But, apart from that, it’s been actually quite similar in terms of feeling in the race team, and how everything operates. No big deal, really. But Andreas has a lot of good experience from the past. He only joined this year so his, and Alessandro’s, work will show in the years to come. It’s always a bit of a lead time on things.”

PF1: Audi arrive into the sport in 2026, teaming up with Sauber – I presume the goal for you is to try hanging on in with the team long enough to race for Audi once that partnership begins?

VB: “For me, the Audio project is really interesting. It’s no lie, that I’m trying to be part of that. I think for me, it would be a big opportunity for my career and it’s definitely interesting.

“Not yet, it’s still a bit early for that. I’m still signed until the end of next year. So eventually, we’ll have a talk but not yet.”

PF1: You’re still only a young fella, only 33, nearly 10 years younger than Fernando Alonso and we still see him performing excellently. Have you given any thoughts as to what comes after F1, or have you any plans for the coming years?

VB: “It’s still Formula 1, 100 percent. I definitely feel like I have many, many years left. I’m not thinking about the afterlife yet! So yeah, I’m fully committed for more.”

PF1: Would you consider being something of a driver mentor, given how Zhou Guanyu and yourself have formed something of a younger/older brother teammate dynamic?

VB: “Maybe one day, yeah! I’ve been trying to help as much as I can. I think he’s been a good learner as well. But, for now, my targets are to get back on the podium and get back to winning one day.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 race wins: Which drivers have the highest win totals in F1 history?

Where are they now? The 24 drivers who raced in F1 2003

PF1: You’ve spoken a lot in the past about your struggles to cope with being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes, given his prodigious levels of talent. George Russell has been performing pretty well alongside Lewis over the last year and a half – do you think that’s down to him being given a different type of teammate dynamic to what was expected by Mercedes when you were there?

VB: “It’s hard to say, obviously, I’m not in there to see the dynamics, how everything works.

“George has done a great job last year, he had a pretty mega season and Lewis had a bit more difficult one. But time will show who will end up on top. But it’s hard to say from my perspective because I didn’t know how it goes internally.”

PF1: Would you be happy to go back to a much more pressure-filled environment that comes with an expectation of wins and potential championship challenges?

VB: “I want to get back up on the podium, and back to fighting for wins.

“In this sport, there’s always pressure, no matter where you are, especially if you’re looking for more wins and titles. Yeah, I do. At the moment, yeah, I’m willing to do anything to get back up top.”

PF1: Do you share the same concerns as some others, like Max Verstappen, about the direction of the 2026 engine regulations? There have been suggestions of drastic driver actions like having to downshift while going down the straights in order to keep battery energy… Is that the right direction to be going in?

VB: “Downshifting on the straights, no.

“But it’s still early days – I think there are still years to develop things. No doubt with the technology F1 teams have available, and engine manufacturers have available, they will nail it.

“They will find the best solutions, and I think it’s going to be fine. It’s too early to judge the new regulations, because it’s on simulations at the moment.

“So I have no concerns, I think it’ll be OK.”

PF1: At the moment, Red Bull are dominating the sport and it’s difficult to see who can really stop them until a regulation change is made. There’s been a bit of chat in recent weeks about the idea of trying to impose ways of regulating the beginning of development for the following season in order to prevent dominant teams from sealing in that advantage for following years. Would you be in favour of such a proposal, or do you think teams should be caught organically?

VB: “I think they deserve it. They’ve done a great job with the car. They seem to have a really strong team overall.

“I don’t see a point of trying to limit someone’s performance. I think already, with the regulations nowadays, if you win the Constructors Championship’, you are already then penalised in terms of wind tunnel time.

“So I think, in the longer term, that will stabilise things. It’s the nature of the sport.

“There are always periods when somebody’s dominating, and so on, so I wouldn’t change anything – it’s the name of the game. The people who build the best car deserve it.”

Read Next: Exclusive Q&A: Franz Tost on retirement, Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s succession plan