Nation: Finland (Kimiland)
Rookie year: 2013
Car number: 77
We all know him as the (2nd) fastest fin on the grid. His first break came in 2014's Australian grand prix as he coasted home in 5th after courting a podium finish for much of the race. That season he climbed to an unprecedented 4th for the newly-rejuvinated Williams Martini Racing. Since then he's slowly declined in position along with Williams, leading many to question his talents. However Valterri is someone who knows a thing or two about comebacks.
GP3 2011. I would bet only 1 in 1,000 people who read this will remember that series, yet I have no doubt Valterri has a photo of that year's car on his mantle. A quarter of the way into the season, Valterri hasn't even stood on the podium. He's only scored points once in that span, despite finishing all 4 races. In that time, championship leader Nigel Melker has finished on the podium 75% of the time. Out of the 35 drivers in that year's GP3 season, only two made it to F1, and only one would complete a season in the highest level of open-wheel racing.
On the coastal waters of Valencia, Valterri earns his big break. After a 7th place finish in the first race, Bottas charges to 3rd in the second round of the Spanish GP. Only one problem, his teammate, James Calado, stands two places higher, taking the race. These two battle it out Hunt-Lauda style until Monza. Voter wins three races, but Calado podiums 4 times in a row going into the final showdown at Monza.
At the fastest track on the calendar, Valterri has climbed all the way up to 1st, besting 6 other contenders on the way up. Calado is the only man standing in the way of Valterri and a major step on his way to Formula 1. 10 points for 1st, 8 for 2nd, 5 for 3rd. As luck would have it, Valterri needed 2 more points than Calado to clinch the championship at the last circuit of the season. With confidence, and drive, Valterri brought his ART to the finishline one place above Calado, who finished a step behind him in second.
Vulture's story is one of triumph in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds. As he prepares to duel a triple world champion for a place in the history books, the lesson we can learn from history is: never count Valterri out.