Valtteri Viktor Bottas’ favourite thing about Malaysia, believe it or not, is the weather. Make of that what you will, but if you grew up in the crippling cold of Finland, anywhere along the equator immediately becomes comfortable. Minus the occasional suffocating humidity, of course.

Born on August 28, 1989, the young Finnish first ventured into the high octane world of motorsports at the tender age of six, racing karts. Many years and victories later, which included an illustrious seven-year stint in Finland’s National Karting squad, he moved into the single-seater Formula series.

He won both the 2008 Formula Renault Eurocup and the 2008 Formula Renault Northern European Cup, winning an astonishing 17 races out of 28 starts. He briefly raced in the Formula 3 series before assuming the role of a Formula One test driver for Williams in 2010.

Then, he made his F1 debut in 2013, finished fourth and fifth in the Drivers’ Championship in 2014 and 2015 respectively, before landing his maiden victory in 2017 in Socchi (Russia) with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. His impressionable track record even landed him the privilege of racing alongside teammate Lewis Hamilton, who is widely regarded as one of the best F1 driver ever.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to pursue racing from a very young age, or pick a car to drive at home when you’re not chasing lap times? Also, did you know that Bottas once had a dog named after Rubens Barrichello? Yeah, turns out the young Fin has quite a sense of humour. We recently had the honour of speaking to him on the phone. Below is the excerpt (edited for clarity).

PT: Can you summarise your journey to Formula 1, through local Formula series to the international stage?

VB: I had a used go kart which was my first go kart. I was practicing a lot, pretty much every single day, whether it was sunny, raining or snowing. I was lucky that, from a very young age, my parents always took me to the track, so I think that really made me improve quite a lot. I was always interested to be quicker around each lap, so I was trying different ways and different things that would help me get there.

Not long after that, I had sponsors who really made it possible for me to pursue my career but I always had to convince them to stay with me, and to do that I needed results. Moving up the ladder was a step-by-step process for me. It wasn’t always easy, I wasn’t always winning, but the competition was tough and the level – right up to the European series – was really good.

PT: How did you convince your family that you’re pursuing a career in motorsports?

VB: I don’t think I really had to convince them with anything because I think they really saw how excited I was to get to drive a car and race – all the emotions I was going through with the racing…

My dad did sometimes ask “are you sure you want to do this?” I would then tell him “are you joking? This is the only thing that I want to do.”

PT: You had a dog named Rubens Barrichello. Can you tell us the story behind this?

VB: Yes, we used to have a Labrador in our family. When I was born we had a dog called Rene, that was for Rene Arnoux. The next one was Ruben, which was named after Rubens Barrichello.

PT: What is the significance of your chosen racing number, 77?

VB: There’s no proper story behind it. I used to race go kart with the number 77, and I always liked the number seven. So I thought it would be cool.

PT: You have had a lot of firsts with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Team – first pole, first win. What other milestones are you targeting with the team?

VB: More wins and championships. That’s it.

PT: What message do you have for budding young racers who are thinking of chasing their dreams?

VB: I would say, if you really have the passion for a sport, just go for it and make sure you enjoy it. When you enjoy what you do, you do better. Never stop believing. Like in Formula One, some people might tell you that there’s all these great drivers, but when I was a kid, I always thought that there is 20 drivers in Formula 1, so it’s possible. Anything is possible if you want.

PT: What is your favourite car of all time, and what’s in your personal garage right now?

VB: My favourite car of all time is the one which doesn’t quite exist yet, and it’s the Mercedes-AMG Project One. In my garage, I honestly only own one car now. I’ve always owned one at a time and now I have the Mercedes-AMG GT S.

Bottas will continue to race for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport for the 2019 season, with a possible contract extension to 2020.