Valtteri Bottas delivers update on F1 future as sport moves away from being ‘natural’

Thomas Maher
Valtteri Bottas, 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas believes he has years left in F1, as he chases a new F1 contract for 2025 and beyond.

Valtteri Bottas hasn’t ruled out having a career of similar length to Fernando Alonso, saying he has no inclination towards leaving F1 any time soon.

The Finn has just kicked off his 12th season racing in Formula 1, having made his debut in 2013, and says he doesn’t see himself walking away from the sport in the near future as he pursues a new long-term contract.

Valtteri Bottas: My main priority is the Audi project

Bottas departed Mercedes at the end of 2021 to join the Alfa Romeo/Sauber team, signing a long-term deal that was originally thought to take him through to the end of 2025. But, last year, it emerged that Bottas’ deal comes to an end at the conclusion of 2024, making him one of many free agents on the market for next season.

The 34-year-old Finn said that he doesn’t feel his time in F1 is anywhere near an end, and that he’s aiming to secure a new long-term deal – preferably with Audi.

The German manufacturer will enter F1 in 2026, and recently confirmed plans to increase its interest in the Sauber team to become a 100 percent takeover. With the manufacturer’s plans ramping up, Bottas is eager to remain on the scene to start working with Audi.

Asked whether he could see himself having a career of similar length to Fernando Alonso, who made his debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, the Finn said he couldn’t rule out chasing a career of over two decades if he can keep himself in demand.

“20 seasons… I think it’s possible,” he told PlanetF1.com in an exclusive interview.

“I’m not thinking that far yet but, as far as I’m looking, I don’t see the end of me being in F1.

“I definitely want to be here for some successful years, the goal and motivation now is to try and get back closer to the front somehow.”

As well as Sauber/Audi, there are plenty of open cockpits up and down the grid – including a vacant seat at Mercedes following Lewis Hamilton’s departure.

Bottas previously didn’t rule out the possibility of being open to a Mercedes return, but said his main priority is to win a new deal with Audi.

“I think there could be interesting opportunities, because the way the cycle of driver contracts has now gone, there are actually quite a few open situations in different teams,” he said.

“I think there will be opportunities but, at the moment, my priorities are the Audi project and to get in there for the long-term. Ideally, as a leader. That’s my biggest goal now in terms of what I can see today, but obviously, things can change.”

But, with Sauber struggling for points-scoring pace, does Bottas need a big year to earn Audi’s approval?

“I hope the people who will make decisions feel like I don’t need to prove anything,” he said.

“If you look at my track record, if I have the car, they should know what I can do.

“But still, it is an extra motivation, absolutely, to do well, because, unfortunately, the memory is quite short in this sport for many people. So you have one average season and the people are going to forget you. So I do want to have a good year.”

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Valtteri Bottas: Wherever I go, I want to be there for the long-term

Given Bottas is chasing a new long-term deal, staying with Sauber for 2025 would almost definitely mean staying on for the first year or two of Audi’s arrival, a situation he’s hopeful can become a reality.

“I definitely feel like it’s better if you can commit to the team and there’s no distraction on contracts and stuff,” he said.

“So wherever I end up going, ideally, I will be there for the long term.”

With Bottas now one of the sport’s elder statesmen, does he still enjoy F1 as much as when he first burst onto the scene with Williams in 2013?

“I’ve obviously always loved just the pure racing and that side of the sport and racing against the best drivers in the best cars,” he said.

“That’s always the number one thing that I still believe is in the DNA of Formula 1 but, for sure, there’s a bit more entertainment in it now, thanks to Liberty Media.

“Since they joined, they’ve really made the sport bigger. To make it bigger, yeah, you might need a bit more time off the drivers and look at things from a different angle. But it’s not too much of a distraction. But I feel like, when I started, F1 was a bit more natural, let’s say. But I don’t mind it, F1 is booming, so happy days!”

One major difference since he made his debut is the visibility of the sport – Netflix’s Drive to Survive has made superstars of all the F1 drivers (and other team personnel as well!), but is that a situation that sits right for the Finn?

“I can’t say that I like it. But I don’t mind the stuff they do, it’s OK,” he said.

“In the end, it is all about promoting the sport.”

It’s in the extensive media commitments that F1 differs to many other sports, with Bottas pointing out how guests from other sports arriving for a Grand Prix are astonished by how many other commitments the drivers have – ironically pointing out the amount of media duties the drivers have while carrying out one of those scheduled duties.

“I believe we spend the most amount of time, out of all the sports, doing media on a weekend,” he said.

“What has impressed visitors that we have from the different sports – let’s say whether it’s a tennis player, or whoever – they are surprised at how close to the race, we still do media.

“Because normally, football players for example, they normally get protected from the media hours before the game. But, for us, before we jump in the car, we might have the last interview and then we go so that’s quite different in F1. But that’s also something you actually get used to.”

It’s in these other commitments that Bottas admitted he is less enamoured with than other aspects of being an F1 driver – but he still wouldn’t trade it for another job.

“I think the overall load of the other commitments than driving [are what I don’t enjoy as much],” he said.

“So, obviously, media is one but then [for the] team, we have lots of sponsors. They have time with drivers for X amount of days per year. Then there’s the simulator work, which is actually a lot.

“I think it’s the combination of there’s not that many days at home per year. But I’d still take it to be able to race and be in F1 and still going for my goals and dreams so… I’m not complaining but probably the hardest part is the time away from home.”

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