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Johnny D

Johnny D

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Sitting on the second floor of the Mercedes Formula 1 team's palatial motorhome on a hot afternoon in central Europe, a championship contender strides confidently across the dark wooden floor to a sun-kissed table protected by tinted glass.


"So, Valtteri, I'd like to talk about something with a very Finnish focus..."


"Good," Valtteri Bottas smiles as he sits forward, ready for what he hopes will be an interesting topic.


"OK, sisu..."


RACER's pronunciation is immediately corrected in a manner that suggests Bottas has had to do it on multiple occasions.


"Is it a real thing?" I ask.


"It's a word..." he shrugs.


Perhaps the topic isn't as intriguing as I'd hoped. But there's a mischievous grin on the face of the 27-year-old that suggests he's going to enjoy disproving the theory.


The confidence with which Bottas carries himself is impressive. His demeanor hasn't changed since his move from Williams to Mercedes for 2017, entering what's seen as Lewis Hamilton's team and going toe to toe with the triple world champion. But then again, it should be no surprise, as little seems to faze the Finns...


Sisu, a peculiarly Finnish and somewhat mysterious take on strength of will and rationality in the face of adversity, clearly isn't something that will get Bottas particularly animated either, as he doesn't view it as a tangible that exists.


"It's a saying," he explains. "I think Finns are a little bit their own type of people. Compared to other countries we're quite quiet and we don't tend to give up easily. It's kind of a meaning for willpower, mental strength and that kind of thing.


"It's just...someone made a word for it. I don't believe in magic, so I don't believe sisu is a magic thing. It's just how Finns are. It's the description for our traits."


For a country with a population of just 5.5 million people, Finland has a remarkable hit rate in motorsports. Rallying continues to be a hotbed of talent, and while drivers reaching Formula 1 are not huge in number, they certainly are in success (see sidebar, page 79).


Finland's F1 history got off to an inauspicious start, with the late Leo Kinnunen becoming its first driver in 1974. He drove a leased Surtees TS16 under the AAW team name, which stood for Antti Aarnio-Wihuri – aptly, the head of the Wihuri group that now backs Bottas. The team lasted one year, and Kinnunen qualified just once in six attempts.


Since then things have been much more impressive. Of the seven Finns since Kinnunen to start a grand prix, five have won a race, and three – Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen (twice) and Kimi Raikkonen – became Formula 1 World Champion.






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