Motor racing-Williams have 'highest hopes' for Bottas
LONDON, March 1
LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Finnish rookie Valtteri Bottas could be one of Formula One's special talents who Williams hope will help lift them back into the top five overall, team founder Frank Williams said on Friday.
"Valtteri could be super...brilliant car control, quite a small chap, very quiet - I like that. We have the highest hopes for him in the future," the 70-year-old told guests at a lunch hosted by team sponsor Reuters.
"Every team principal dreams of finding a young driver who has just come down from heaven specially to drive racing cars. (Ayrton) Senna was such a driver, (Emerson) Fittipaldi was like that and (Sebastian) Vettel is probably like that too," he added.
"We very, very much hope that Valtteri is another one like that. We'll see."
Bottas has spent the last year as Williams reserve driver, learning the tracks in Friday practice and with double world champion Mika Hakkinen as manager and mentor to give him advice.
The 23-year-old won the GP3 title in 2011 and has arrived in Formula One without racing in the regular GP2 feeder series and with less financial backing than some others who might have aspired to the seat.
The season starts in Australia on March 17.
Once-dominant Williams, winners of nine constructors' and seven drivers' titles between 1980 and 1997, finished eighth last season after fighting back from a worst ever performance of ninth in 2011.
Last year's FW34 car was a race winner in Spain in the hands of quick but erratic Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, however, and Williams said the signs were that the FW35 was significantly better.
"The reports we get and the numbers in the windtunnel demonstrate it should be a very competitive car," he explained.
"The numbers for this new car are a very useful improvement (on last year's). There should be a significant step for the car. Our engine is very competitive."
Maldonado's win at the Circuit de Cataluna in 2012 was no freak success, despite it being the team's first race victory in nearly eight years, with the Venezuelan taking the chequered flag from pole position.
He was third fastest in a wet test session at the same circuit on Friday.
With stable regulations, and the teams expected to be closer than ever in performance after a season with seven different winners in the first seven races, Williams hoped to continue their progress up the grid.
"Expectation and aspiration are often quite different. The aspiration of course is to continously be on the podium...and certainly finish in the top three in the world championship," said Williams.
"But until we learn, like we used to do, to make winning cars that can win a race at each and every grand prix that we participate in...we are getting back to that point but I don't think we are quite there yet.
"Top five would for us be a good result in the coming championship, and the following year fourth and so on. Climb up slowly. Miracles don't happen sadly, they just don't happen in Formula One."
This year will be the last for the V8 engines, with new V6 turbocharged units and energy recovery systems being introduced for 2014.
Williams said there was no going back but confessed he was sceptical about an innovation that partners Renault have wholeheartedly backed.
"To be very frank it's an incredibly, unnecessarily so, expensive engine," he said. "It may be a great honeymoon trip for the engineers but beyond that - and I can only speak for myself - I worry about the cost of the engine.
"It's going to be twice the price of the present deal." (Editing by John Mehaffey)
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