The Sochi Autodrom has traditionally been one of Valtteri Bottas’ strongest tracks, but the Finnish driver knows each season is different, so past performances and results cannot guarantee another strong performance in 2019.
The Mercedes AMG Motorsport driver won the Russian Grand Prix back in 2017 for his first Formula 1 victory and took a podium result twelve months ago after allowing team-mate Lewis Hamilton through to take the win. He also took a podium finish for Williams Racing at the track in 2014 and was a polesitter last year.
However, Bottas is cautious to predict that he’ll be at the front of the field this weekend, particularly after the recent upturn in form of Scuderia Ferrari and the continued presence of Red Bull Racing.
“It gives confidence to come into a weekend when you know previously it’s been one of the good tracks for you, so that’s obviously a nicer way to start the weekend but always, in every case, you start from zero,” said Bottas.
“Every season, every track changes a little bit, every car is always different every year, so setup, everything is different, so you’re starting from zero – but for sure, we have a good mindset coming here, knowing that it’s been good in the past.
“I don’t know, just since the first year coming here I’ve found a good flow on the track and haven’t really had many problematic corners or anything, so been on the pace. Obviously, there’s always things I can do better this year than last year and that will be the aim.”
Last weekend in Singapore, Bottas was asked by James Vowles on the Mercedes pit wall to slow sufficiently to allow team-mate Hamilton to remain ahead of him when he came out of the pits, but the Finn says everything has been discussed since then and it will be up to him to be in a position to prevent this from happening in the future.
“Obviously we always review everything by the finest detail with the team, and I was at the factory on Tuesday,” said the Finn. “We had meetings about that and that we’ll keep just for us.
“Whatever we’ve spoken about it. We have certain rules, both ways, they’re equal. That’s how it goes but I just need to make sure I’m not going to be in that kind of situation again.”
Bottas currently holds second place in the Drivers’ Championship with six races remaining, but the chasing pack are closing in. Both Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen are thirty-one points adrift while Sebastian Vettel, the most recent race winner in Singapore, is only six points further back in fifth.
However, Bottas says his focus is not on the finishing order in the championship at this time of the season but on what he can achieve this weekend in Sochi, where he hopes to take his first victory since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April.
“For sure, Ferrari has been improving a lot and Red Bull is very close every weekend now, depending on track layout,” said Bottas. “So, it’s still a big chunk of points to be had for the rest of the year, so for sure I need to keep performing and we need to perform as a team to get those bigger points.
“I’m still aiming and focussing really ahead. Focussing on short team goals: the next one is this weekend, try to win the race. Then, at the end of the year, we’ll see if there’s still a threat or what’s happening.
“I’m not really thinking about that too much. I’m thinking about my performance and our performance as a team.”