Regardless of its modest measurement and inhabitants of simply 5.5 million, the tough and different terrain makes Finland’s roads the right breeding floor for elite drivers.
Keke Rosberg, Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen have gained 4 F1 titles between them to make the nation the joint fifth most profitable in historical past.
And it is not simply F1 the place Finland punches above its weight — in rallying it sits second solely to France within the all-time world champions record.
So what’s it in regards to the nation’s drivers that turns them into “Flying Finns” behind the wheel?
“I believe for positive, a part of that comes from being Finnish and the best way we’re,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas tells CNN in Nastola, his residence metropolis.
“Our mentality is basically good for the game, we do not have a tendency to surrender and being in troublesome conditions underneath strain, which is sweet on this sport.
“We do not thoughts being alone as a result of in the long run in that automobile you might be fairly alone and that is the way it feels.”
The serene pure environment of Lake Iso-Kukkanen and slow-paced life in Nastola really feel a world away from the frenetic Method One paddock.
As a lot as Bottas thrives underneath the strain that comes when he pulls on his helmet, he admits to being a special particular person when he is residence.
The 29-year-old nonetheless has many college family and friends members residing in “peaceable” Nastola, the right place for him to unwind.
Childhood reminiscences of taking part in by the lakes and within the woods are nonetheless treasured.
“I am all the time very happy with the place I come from,” he says. “The extra I have been touring the world and seeing totally different locations, the extra I respect the place I come from.
“The character, how clear it’s right here, you may drink such pure water from the faucet anyplace on this nation — all these sort of small stuff you begin to respect and it is fairly a novel place.
“I believe on a race weekend, I am positively a bit extra closed. There’s so many issues that you just suppose by way of the week and you should keep concentrated and continuously processing.
“You’re there as an athlete to attempt to get 100% out of your self, to provide your self every thing you’ve got each week. So whereas I am right here, at my lake home having beers with my pals, I am fairly totally different.”
World championship ‘dream’
For Bottas, a lot has modified within the two years since CNN’s The Circuit final went to go to his hometown.
Now not the inexperienced Method One rookie slicing his enamel driving for Williams, Bottas now races in among the best automobiles on the grid alongside arguably probably the most gifted driver of his technology.
However Bottas very a lot performs second fiddle to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who now has one eye on a fifth world championship title.
“I would not change my place to anyplace else now,” he says when requested about being prime canine in one other staff.
“I am completely happy the place I’m as a result of Lewis being Lewis, fast driver, he retains me very motivated. I wish to be forward of him, me as a driver, you may all the time be taught from one other driver.
“The objective was to be a world champion and it nonetheless is. So I am nonetheless chasing my goals, attempting to achieve the objective I stated to myself and just about all of the individuals round after I was six.
“I am nonetheless realistically on that path, there’s nonetheless a risk for that sooner or later so I believe I’ve accomplished fairly nicely to date however in fact, I wish to win my objective.”
Till the 2017 Russian Grand Prix, Bottas held the undesirable report of being the motive force to have amassed probably the most factors with out ever successful a race.
Victories in Austria and Abu Dhabi adopted later that season however he’s and not using a Grand Prix victory since then.
Bottas ended 2017 in third — behind solely Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel — with 305 factors, far and away his greatest efficiency in Method One.
‘Outperformed all people’
Those that know him greatest imagine his confidence in his personal means to sooner or later win a world title shouldn’t be misplaced.
One summer time’s day in 2008, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff remembers seeing Bottas in a automobile for the primary time and, whilst a teenager, being streets forward of his rivals.
“I knew about him earlier than,” Wolff advised CNN. “I knew there was a Finnish child that was doing very nicely in a non-public staff that was preventing with the highest groups in Method Renault.
“Then he was promoted into what was once the frontrunner staff and he simply outperformed all people. I visited him on the Nurburgring, he had pole place on the Method Renault Cup.
“There was about 40-50 starters, so it was large, and he was simply coming down on the again straight in the direction of the chicane and there was no one [close] behind him … on lap 1!”
‘Sprucing a diamond’
Wolff is eager to emphasize that Bottas has solely been within the Mercedes automobile for 2 years, a 3rd of the time of Hamilton, and believes his profession trajectory is pointing within the route of sooner or later successful a championship.
That the Austrian says there was “by no means any doubt” in providing a contract extension for subsequent season speaks volumes of the religion he has in his driver.
“He has it in him that he can, with the appropriate automobile, win a driver world championship,” Wolff says.
“This yr perhaps much less likelihood as a result of he is missing some factors, however subsequent yr is all factors all the way down to zero and if we’re in a position to have a aggressive automobile, he will likely be within the hunt, for positive.”
Bottas has obtained his fair proportion of criticism, with many perceiving his quiet, introverted demeanor as the dearth of preventing spirit which has resulted in him successful simply three Grands Prix.
However two-time world champion Häkkinen, his compatriot and idol rising up, presents some perspective on the numbers.
“I am very assured in that and I’ve to let you know a narrative about myself,” he explains. “It took me seven years earlier than I gained my first Grand Prix.
“Ultimately when you’ve got these qualities what we have spoken earlier within the first place — expertise, uncooked pace — it is like sharpening a diamond and sooner or later it is shining and it is prepared and then you definately’ll be world champion.”
Bottas bought his first style of high-octane racing on a small karting monitor a brief distance from his hometown.
His mother and father supported him in his fledgling profession, taking him every single day after college. Simply 5 years previous, the Finn’s love of pace was evident within the first lap he ever raced.
“I had a large shunt as a result of I did not know that you just needed to brake,” Bottas laughs. “I believe somebody had defined to me, however I used to be simply excited to get within the automobile.
“I might do with out crashing till right here,” he says, gesturing to trace’s first sharp nook. “Then I realized that you just needed to brake, and so the following lap was nice.”
Now, greater than twenty years after getting behind the wheel for the primary time, Bottas has come full circle and now stands in the identical place beforehand occupied by his idols.
“It’s kind of bizarre to suppose that approach as a result of for me after I was a child doing go-karts, Method One stars have been like large heroes,” he remembers.
“And for me now considering that some youngsters right here on the native monitor are followers of mine and considering the identical, it’s unusual to suppose.
“However I’m actually completely happy if I can inspire somebody to observe their goals and, you understand, set themselves objectives and targets of their profession and of their life. So I am actually actually completely happy for that.”