F1: Spark plug Bottas injecting extra electricity into season

Valtteri Bottas is rapidly laying claim to being Formula One’s fastest Finn after again eclipsing Kimi Raikkonen on his way to a third successive podium appearance for Williams on Sunday.

The scene in the middle of the 34th lap of the German Grand Prix - the exact halfway point of the 2014 season - perfectly summed up the racing so far.

Nico Rosberg was waltzing comfortably towards his fourth victory of the season with barely a moment of worry, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton was driving the wheels off his similar Mercedes, playing yet another game of catch-up in the face of adversity.

They duly delivered in front of the Stuttgart company's top brass, with Rosberg first and Hamilton third from 20th on the grid.

But just as much a part of the story was another fantastic performance from Valtteri Bottas.

Once again the Finn delivered after perennially unlucky team-mate Felipe Massa got turfed on his head by Kevin Magnussen's McLaren at the first corner.

He couldn't stay with Rosberg, who showed that the ban on the inter-connected front and rear suspension systems had zero influence on the overall pecking order.

But Bottas kept Hamilton at bay in the closing stages with another drive that suggested he is a world champion of the future.

It's been a tough season in places for revitalised Williams, but now they are reaping the rewards that ill fortune has, at times, denied them this year.

And Bottas put rivals on notice after scoring his third successive top-three finish when he said: "It feels really good to be on the podium for a third time in a row. But I think we're aiming for more than that now."

Which means a win. Don't rule it out. As Niki Lauda said recently: "Thank God Alonso isn't in a Williams!"

Bottas isn't far off the Spaniard, and he doesn't make mistakes. As it was, the Grove-based team moved ahead of Ferrari in the constructors' stakes, something we haven't seen for far too many years.

The other high point was the frenetic fights between the Red Bull drivers and Fernando Alonso, which made this another brilliant race.

And perhaps because his car was in the thick of things, Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo might be having a rethink after branding the highly successful new eco-F1 "taxi racing."

Such was the intensity of the early stages of the Vettel v Alonso fight, when they were running wheel-to-wheel after their first pit stops, that Alonso's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen became collateral damage as he got pincered between the two of them heading into the hairpin on the 15th lap.

Vettel eventually won that scrap, and Daniel Ricciardo, delayed by the first-corner incident, gave Alonso hell in the final laps and finished just 0.082sec behind the Spaniard.

"That was awesome fun, one of my most enjoyable races I've had," the Australian beamed.

"These are the moments and battles that I personally thrive (on) and enjoy.

"Fernando is known to be a tough racer and I thought who better to have a good fight with?"

The three of them were part of a show that put the grand into grand prix racing, and the sole downside was that only 95,000 spectators turned out to see it, despite Germany's current dominance in the sport.

Bottas kept Hamilton at bay in the closing stages with another drive that suggested he is a world champion of the future.

This article was first published on July 22, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.