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Valtteri Bottas admits the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship season will be 'important' for his career as he looks to progress on from a 2015 campaign that he admits has been imperfect.
Having made his F1 debut in 2013 with Williams, scoring just one top ten finish as the historic Grove-based squad suffered its worst-ever season in the sport, the Finn enjoyed a breakthrough 2014 season on the back of Williams' revival under the latest regulations.
Ending the year fourth overall, ahead of more experienced team-mate Felipe Massa and with six podium results to his name, Bottas had been touted as a potential race win contender for 2015. However, with Ferrari surpassing Williams as Mercedes' most consistent threat, Bottas himself admits he is disappointed that success hasn't been so frequent this year.
“As a whole, not great for me I must admit,” he told Crash.net
. “I think it's a very unlucky season compared to last year – there's been a lot of things happening in races for me, things where I've not been able to do anything: pit-stops, wrong tyres, brake problems, things like this… In a couple of qualifying sessions, I didn't get 100 per cent out of the car and that is really crucial for the starting place.
Despite this, Bottas – who was on course for a top four result in Russia before being spun out by Kimi Raikkonen – feels he has enjoyed a more competitive latter half to the year and is optimistic this will carry him through to 2016.
“Not a perfect season but there are still three opportunities left and I've been pleased overall with the last few races, I feel that I've been able to perform at my top level and get everything out of the car.”
Expanding on the operational issues that have hampered him this season, most notably being fitted with different tyre compounds at the Belgian Grand Prix and dissatisfaction over team orders at Silverstone, Bottas says Williams must improve in this area, but is confident it will do so.
“It's been imperfect operationally as everyone has seen, and the team is also not very happy about it,” he continued. “Of course, we would have wanted to be on a higher level but we are really getting better. It might be easy to see but, from every mistake, we always learn. I think the pit-stops, in particular, seem very bad because we've been having issues with the wheel nuts not coming off the tyres.
“The boys, the mechanics, they've been doing a lot of work to improve, but with the equipment they have at the moment, they can't deliver – but we are working on that as well and finding results, so by the end of the year and especially next year, we will be much stronger as a team.”
Having been linked with a move to Ferrari in 2016, the subsequent confirmation of Raikkonen would see Bottas pen a new deal with Williams instead. However, on the premise Raikkonen will retire at the end of 2016, competition for that seat is likely to grow, with Max Verstappen and Haas-bound Romain Grosjean earmarked as early candidates too.
With this in mind, Bottas – who is part-managed by Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff – admits he needs to improve for the 2016 season.
“I don't know, we'll find out later,” he says when asked about 2017 and the prospect of a Mercedes drive given his relationship with Wolff. “This is too early to speculate. I think, for me, obviously, like every season in F1, it is important but next year, for me, is going to be very important to do well.”