Formula 1: How did tiny Finland become an F1 giant?

Formula 1

Bottas told 5 live his greatest Finnish driver was Mika Hakkinen. See our greatest Finn vote result, below

An interesting bunch, the Finns.

For starters, the Finnish word for computer translates as “knowledge machine”, while a Finn in a bad mood would be moping around like “a bear shot in the backside”.

Perhaps most pleasingly of all, a passing Finn wondering after your sanity might question whether you are in possession of “all the Moomins in the valley”.

Clearly, the Finns have much they can teach us.

It is certainly the case so far as motorsport goes, particularly Formula 1.

The Nordic country may have a population of about five and a half million people, but that has not stopped them producing three world champions and – following Valtteri Bottas’ maiden win at the Russian Grand Prix on 30 April – no fewer than five race winners.

Yet Finland’s pre-eminence in F1 did not happen in a hurry. The arrival of the dashing Keke Rosberg on the scene in 1978 would eventually lead to Finland making a significant impact in the sport, but even he had it rough for several years.

Between 1978 and 1981, Rosberg managed just two points finishes, but a move to Williams for 1982 delivered him the world title – albeit after winning just one race all year.

Rosberg won four more races before retirement in 1986, but his influence on Finnish racing was far from over as before long he took charge of the careers of two rising young stars – JJ Lehto and Mika Hakkinen.

While Lehto’s career stalled, Hakkinen’s went into the stratosphere, delivering 20 race wins and two world titles before he retired in 2001 as the most successful Finnish F1 driver of all time.

Keke Rosberg winning at life – Brazil 1985

And like taxis off a rank, 2001 just happened to be the cue for the next Finnish superstar to make his entrance.

Kimi Raikkonen famously arrived in F1 amid much scrutiny over his credentials, being awarded a superlicence despite having contested just 23 open-seater races.

Sixteen years later and still hugely relevant in F1, it’s fair to say Raikkonen has answered his doubters.

Twenty wins and one world title in 2007 is perhaps scant return on his promise, but Raikkonen nevertheless retains cult status in the sport, built on a famed monosyllabic delivery that has made him the very epitome of the unflustered Finnish driver.

And as Raikkonen enters the twilight of his career, it would seem Valtteri Bottas – unexpectedly elevated into a race-winning Mercedes over the winter – has exactly what it takes to be Finland’s F1 star for the years ahead.

So what is the secret of the Finns’ continued success?