Move over Kimi – a new ‘ice man’ has arrived in town…
After four formative seasons with Williams, Valtteri Bottas is ready to take over as Finland’s number one.
The 27-year-old Finn is is fast, smart and racing in arguably the best car on the grid.
Bottas is the man who has stepped in to replace retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg as team-mate to three-time title-winner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
It is a move that was widely expected and one that the cool man from Nastola has taken in his stride.
After 77 races, he knows he is expected to claim his maiden win and then a clutch more this year, but in pre-season testing and during this week’s pre-event build-up he has shown no sign of nerves.
Instead, he has been both charming and cool – notably impressing his ice hockey hosts when he joined the Melbourne Mustangs and Melbourne Ice at the O’Brien Group Arena on Tuesday.
“I’d say he was as good as anyone there on the ice,” said one observer, impressed by Bottas’ switch of sports. “You could see he knew what he was about.”
If that was an easy diversion to master, for a man who grew up in an ice hockey-mad land, he knows he faces bigger challenges ahead.
“Mercedes doesn't have a number one and a number two driver, so it is up to me to perform,” he explained, as Hamilton arrived to a frenzied media reception at the airport.
“As long as I do my job – and that it is to perform at the level that the car should be -- then we are good... And I know I can do it."
Bottas has been confirmed as fast, talented and a tough racer by his many admirers, including former Australian favourite Mark Webber, but in Hamilton he faces a team-mate like no other in contemporary F1.
“Everyone knows what a great driver Lewis is,” said Bottas. “So it is my job to do my own best and see where we go. For sure, it is a big challenge, but that is what I am here for…”
Like 37-year-old fellow-Finn Raikkonen, he lets such concerns glide off him.
They may not be best mates – and have endured a few scrapes in recent seasons – but they occupy similar supporting roles to multi-title winners in the sport’s biggest teams.
And both share something else: a natural flair for speed an ice-cold temperament under pressure.