Silly Season Latest: Bottas to McLaren

Valtteri Bottas has been a frequent visitor to the podium this year

Valtteri Bottas has been a frequent visitor to the podium this year

Mika Hakkinen has acknowledged reports linking his protege Valtteri Bottas with McLaren in the wake of the young Finn’s impressive performances in recent races.

Hakkinen, a double world champion with McLaren, has been a key to Bottas’ Formula 1 career so far, culminating in the 24-year-old’s debut at Williams last year after a season of testing and Friday practice bench.

But it is in 2014 that Bottas, with a hat-trick of podiums in June and July and a regular top-three qualifier, has hit the kind of form that now has him linked with a bright Formula 1 future.

“At the moment the two hot names in Formula 1 are Bottas and Ricciardo,” Hakkinen, who has been involved in Bottas’ management, said in his latest interview with sponsor Hermes.

When Hakkinen retired, he famously advised McLaren that if the British team wanted to continue to win, “get the Finn” — referring to Kimi Raikkonen.

Valtteri Bottas with Mika Hakkinen

Valtteri Bottas with Mika Hakkinen

Now, the 45-year-old has similar advice. Hakkinen admits that he has heard speculation linking McLaren, who are openly seeking the best possible drivers to spearhead the new works Honda foray, with Bottas.

“This is quite natural,” he said. “The first thing is that Valtteri is still a young driver who has been in Formula 1 only for a short time. But Valtteri is interesting not only because of his speed.”

“He can also motivate others in the team and is able to create an atmosphere that is necessary for success,” he added. “There is interest, and that’s good. What happens in the future remains to be seen.”

Also impressed by Bottas this year is Hakkinen’s old long-time McLaren teammate and also Williams driver David Coulthard, “He (Bottas) has had three podiums and is outperforming a very able Felipe Massa. Valtteri seems a bit like Mika: totally unemotional, which helps in the heat of Formula 1.

“Mika does not work with many people, so that says something in itself,” Coulthard added. “He (Bottas) is clearly someone to watch for the future, but you only find out if people can deal with the pressure of a championship fight until it happens.” (GMM)