Valtteri Bottas will switch to the GP3 Series next season, racing for ART Grand Prix. The 21-year-old Finn has raced for the French squad for the last two years in the Formula 3 Euro Series, also winning the Zandvoort F3 Masters in both years. Bottas, who is Williams F1's test and reserve driver, will be hoping to repeat the success of ART driver Esteban Gutierrez who dominated the inaugural GP3 season in 2010.
Bottas and Gutierrez both stepped up to F3 with ART for 2009, having been crowned European Formula Renault and Formula BMW champions respectively in 2008. Bottas impressed on his way to third overall, while Mexican Gutierrez could only manage ninth in the final standings. For 2010 Bottas stayed in F3, where he was the favourite for the title, while Gutierrez switched to the new GP3 Series. Bottas struggled against the VW-powered Signature cars, repeating his third place finish. Meanwhile, Gutierrez, two years Bottas' junior, took the GP3 crown and has been rewarded with a seat in ART's GP2 squad for 2011, forcing Bottas to wait another year.
With his previous achievements and his seat in the reigning champion team, Bottas will most likely start the GP3 season as an overwhelming favourite for the title. However, he still considers the switch a step forward in his career. “A season of GP3 Series with Lotus ART is an ambitious project which is part of a logical progression for two reasons,” he explained.
“After having obtained several victories in the F3 Euro Series, in particular the Masters of Zandvoort, I must continue to climb up the ladder which will lead me to the highest level in motorsport and the GP3 Series is the next step as it proved in the first year of the championship, it takes place as the curtain raiser for Formula 1 and the field is very talented.
“And secondly because this is my third season with Lotus ART, it gives us the opportunity of giving fresh input into a very profitable partnership on a sportsman and personal level. My first objective is to learn, then be able to race with the best. This new step is, again, possible because of my partners Wihuri, Kemppi but also Williams and my management; so, thank you to all.”
ART boss Frederic Vasseur is pleased to continue his relationship with Bottas. “Valtteri is an extremely gifted, fast and very talented driver on a technical level,” he said. “He is also a charming and intelligent human being with whom the team has always had the pleasure of working with.
“He is perfectly integrated inside the team and has built strong relationships with it over the past three years. Extremely fast, focused and mentally strong, Valtteri fits the profile that we are looking for in our second year in the GP3 Series.”
James Calado has already been announced as a driver for ART's GP3 team next year, who will be partnered by Lotus Cars.