Bottas to drive WRC car in Finnish event

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas is to contest the opening round of the Finnish Rally Championship next month when he competes in the Arctic Lapland Rally.

The Finn will drive an M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC with two-time World Rally champion Timo Rautiainen as his co-driver.

“This is a unique opportunity to take a peek into the world of rallying,” said Bottas, “and I would like to thank everyone who has made it possible.

“It’s totally new territory for me too, as I have no prior experience of a World Rally Car,” he admitted. “Still, being the race car driver that I am, you always go flat out whatever the vehicle you’re driving in.”

“In my life, I’ve sat in a rally car with only three drivers,” said co-driver Rautiainen, “but this is such an interesting mission that I just had to accept the challenge.

“I believe that for a talented wheelman like Valtteri, we’ll be able to establish a good basic driving routine in testing. The challenging part of course will be learning the ins and outs of pace note making and learning to drive with pace notes all at once,” he added.

Coming off the back off what Bottas described as his “worst (F1) season so far”, it’s unclear whether the event is a ‘bit of fun’ for the Finn or the Mercedes driver dipping his toe in the waters as he looks beyond F1.

On a one-year deal to partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, it is looking increasingly likely that unless the Finn raises his game significantly next year he will be replaced by Esteban Ocon in 2020.

The event is certainly a serious effort from Bottas, his car being from the same team, and similar to the Ford Fiesta WRC, with which Sebastien Ogier won his two latest titles.

Rautiainen won both his titles with Marcus Gronholm, having also been co-driver to Sebastian Lindholmand Mikko Kalliomaa.