Double F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen says he is “proud” of what his protégé Valtteri Bottas has achieved so far at the pinnacle of the sport.
Bottas was rumoured to be in the frame to switch to Ferrari next year, before the Scuderia re-signed fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen, and he will now remain with Williams for a fifth year in 2016.
Bottas recently called on the Grove squad to raise its game
for 2016 so that they can challenge Ferrari and Mercedes, and Hakkinen is convinced that Bottas will “go far” and add to the eight podiums he has achieved so far, given the right machinery.
Writing in his final McLaren.com blog
, Hakkinen, who is involved in the management of the 26-year-old, said: “I am very proud of him [Bottas]. He has a great personality and that, in many ways, is as vital to becoming a complete driver as is being quick.
“When he and I first met, I invited him to my apartment in Monaco, and we had a productive discussion about what he wanted from his career. In some ways it reminded me of my first encounter with Keke [Rosberg], but with my role reversed of course.
“Valtteri said he wanted to become Formula 1 world champion, and I had no doubts about his ability to do so. I knew we could work well together.”
Recalling the time he saw him in action during a Formula 3 test, Hakkinen added it was clear to him from then that Bottas was special.
“In Formula 3 I first saw the extent of his talent behind the wheel. Formula 3 is and always has been a tough series. The cars are technically demanding and the other drivers are usually at a high level. At the first test at Hockenheim the track was damp, and, as Valtteri went out on his first run, I said to myself, 'Let's see what he can do'.
“Almost immediately he was absolutely flat-out. At Turn One his car swooped from entry to apex to exit, from kerb to kerb to kerb, on a perfect line, its driver leaving no margin. He was totally on it: early on the gas, a little bit sideways, but always under control. And he improved throughout the test, learned from his few mistakes, and was quick all the time. 'He's got it,' I said to myself.
“And now, watching him from the sidelines, I really enjoy it. I am pleased by how good he is. But, more than that, besides being quick and committed in the car, he is also a proper team player, and you can see how well all his working relationships have gelled.
“He will go far.”