Valtteri Bottas was a child when Mika Hakkinen stormed to his Formula 1 world titles to bring championship glory to Finland.
Bottas has hailed as ‘crazy’ his experience of lining up alongside Mika Hakkinen for Team Finland at the 2023 Race of Champions.
Pairing up as teammates for their country, Team Finland were knocked out in the first round of the Nations Cup, while both Bottas and Hakkinen were knocked out in the last 16 stages.
But the impact of lining up alongside two-time Formula 1 World Champion Hakkinen wasn’t lost on Bottas, who was just 10 years old when the Finn claimed his second consecutive title for McLaren in 1999.
Having watched his compatriot defeat Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine over his two title years and, despite being a long-term teammate of seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, Bottas said it’s “pretty cool” to team up with a legend of Finnish motorsport.
“If I had been told as a child that I would drive with Mika one day, it would have been pretty crazy because he was my big hero,” Bottas said.
“I looked up to him. Being on the team with this legend is pretty cool.”
Valtteri Bottas enjoys relaxed but competitive Race of Champions
Bottas had been due to make his Race of Champions debut appearance with Team Finland last year, only to be forced to pull out at the last moment due to other commitments.
Having finally had his chance to race at the extra-curricular motorsport event, Bottas was thrilled to have enjoyed the camaraderie of the fun competition.
“It’s great, a whole new experience for me,” he smiled.
“It’s nice to be around so many people from different corners of motorsport. Of course, everyone wants to be as fast as possible but, at the same time, we also want to have some fun together. For most, the season hasn’t started yet, so you can be pretty relaxed.”
Speaking after being knocked out, Bottas threw his support behind Oliver Solberg and spoke of the challenge of racing different equipment every few minutes out on track.
“It is challenging – every time you go out, the conditions are different,” he explained.
“Every time you go out, it’s a different car and all these cars were new to me this weekend. Just getting into it, the time just stops!”