Valtteri Bottas believes that the strides made by the Williams F1 team this season will serve it well for 2015.
The former multiple world champion outfit has bounced back from the doldrums this year, and currently sits third in the constructors' standings, ahead of powerhouses Ferrari and McLaren. Although new champion Mercedes and quadruple king Red Bull remain out of reach at the top of the table, Bottas reckons that Williams can legitimately aim higher as it builds on the success of 2014.
Having singled out Austria, where he claimed his first podium after starting on the front row, and Germany, where he split the Mercedes in the race, as his high points of the season, Bottas believes that, with the right people now in place and a solid foundation for the 2015 car, there is no reason to think that Williams will slip backwards.
“[There is] no secret [to the 2014 performance],” he stressed, “It's just working hard and trying to do the right things, using the energy you put in in the right things to make more performance, to make the car better, to make the team work better. Now we finally have the right people in the team to operate everything and we can focus the energy in the places which matter most to the performance of the team and car.
“It's good team work and we're well organised. Obviously, we have a smaller budget than the two teams behind us, so it is nice to be up there, but next year we will still target to be higher.”
While the FW36 has been a potent weapon on quicker tracks, Bottas and team-mate Felipe Massa have struggled to replicate those performances at slower, more technical, venues, and the Finn is keen to see those issues addressed.
“We need to keep pushing the aerodynamics for the future,” he confirmed, “Getting downforce into the car is the main thing, but I think, strategy and pit-stop wise, we still need to be more consistent. We've had some really good races but, sometimes, we've had issues with other ones, so we still need to get stronger and more consistent with everything.
“I think what we have learned this year, areas where we have improved this season, can really allow us to try and be more competitive next season. We are really solving the problems we have been having and getting better in all areas - we just need to make sure we build a good car now. At least the rules don't change that much [for 2015], so we should have a good base car to start with. Then, it's just trying to develop all the time. I really think we can be stronger than this next year.”
Williams is seen as the biggest threat to a Mercedes 1-2 at the season finale in Abu Dhabi this weekend, potentially acting as a spoiler in the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but Bottas is reluctant to predict too much for the Grove team.
“We think the car should be okay here,” he acknowledged, “We think we should be better, in theory, than in Brazil and, there, we were the second quickest team, so we should be looking at a strong weekend, to have a nice clean weekend and finish with both cars. It would be nice to try and battle with Mercedes, but it's never easy as they are still in a different league at the moment.”
Having chased Hamilton and Rosberg all season, the Finn also admitted that it was hard to choose between them when deciding who would take the title on Sunday.
“If I had to choose, I'd probably go with Lewis,” he admitted eventually, “He's had more race wins so far this season, and is maybe slightly quicker overall. That would be my bet, but either one deserves it.
“I think the one that wins it deserves to because that means he collected the most points. I think it's quite simple unless bad luck or a technical failure is going to play a part in this race, but whoever wins the title here deserves it.”