McLaren are right to be interested in signing Valtteri Bottas according to former double world champion Mika Hakkinen.
Bottas, racing in his second season of Formula 1, is currently fifth in the drivers’ championship, some 50 points ahead of his vastly experienced team-mate Felipe Massa, and ahead of highly rated drivers such as defending champion Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Hakkinen, who has been involved with his compatriots rise to Formula 1, says the rumours linking Bottas with a possible to his former team McLaren are natural in light of the 24-year-old’s recent form, which has seen him finish on the podium three times in the last four races, starting from the front row of the grid on two occasions.
“At the moment the two hot names in F1 are Bottas and Ricciardo,” Hakkinen wrote in his post-Hungarian Grand Prix Hermes column.
“This [speculation] is quite natural,” the Finn said in regard to rumours that his former team McLaren are interested in signing Bottas, first reported by The Guardian late last week.
“The first thing is that Valtteri is still a young driver who has been in Formula 1 only for a short time.
“But Valtteri is interesting not only because of his speed,” he added. “He can also motivate others in the team and is able to create an atmosphere that is necessary for success.”
“There is interest,” confirmed the Finn, “and that’s good. What happens in the future remains to be seen.”
Raikkonen revival ‘just a matter of time’
Hakkinen has also backed his fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen to bounce back from his early season struggles with Ferrari.
Raikkonen has disappointed since his return to the Scuderia at the start of the year, and currently lies 12th in the drivers’ championship, with a best finish of sixth to his name, recored at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“It’s just a matter of time,” explained Hakkinen. “Kimi is just as quick as Alonso when he manages to get his car set up properly.
The 45-year-old, who was succeeded at McLaren by Raikkonen in 2002, admitted he was shocked by Ferrari’s blunder in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, which saw his fellow Finn eliminated from the opening part of the session, with Hakkinen notably questioning Pat Fry’s poor call on the pit wall.
“That was an obvious mistake, one that shouldn’t be made by a team at the level of Ferrari,” he said. “Maybe their thoughts were already on the four week break.
“I struggle to believe that such a serious error was made under [Engineering Director] Pat Fry. I know Fry very well; he was an engineer at McLaren when I was there.
“The alarm bells should have gone off for a person like him. One should never take anything for granted.”
Featured image courtesy of Williams F1 Team, text images courtesy of Octane Photographic