Alfa Romeo drivers make pit stop at loanDepot park

May 3rd, 2023

MIAMI -- These days, Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas is sporting a distinctive mullet and mustache. If you're a baseball fan, the combination might look vaguely familiar. A 10-time Grand Prix winner, Bottas played some baseball during summers growing up in Finland. He also is a fan of the baseball-themed show "Eastbound & Down."

"It's a bit different type of baseball actually that we play in Finland, but at least I learned some basics -- and also a big fan of [Eastbound & Down main character] Kenny Powers," said Bottas, who also chatted with MLB Network's Intentional Talk. "So I know a bit about the game because of that."

With the Miami Grand Prix taking place this weekend at the Miami International Autodrome, Alfa Romeo's Bottas and Zhou Guanyu stopped by loanDepot park on Wednesday afternoon. This marks the second straight year F1 drivers have experienced South Florida baseball, joining Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez in 2022.

After receiving gloves, Bottas and Guanyu played catch along the third-base line. Unlike his teammate, Guanyu is a baseball novice. You couldn't tell by his windup, which was inspired by what he had seen on a TV in the lobby minutes earlier.

"Obviously for me, it's my first ever time," said Guanyu, who became the first Chinese-born F1 driver in 2022. "I never played at school, obviously, growing up in China and then living in UK for most time. For me, it's a completely new experience. So hopefully I don't bottle it on the pitch today."

Once they had warmed up, Bottas and Guanyu turned their attention to Marlins batting practice, watching in amazement as Jorge Soler launched home run after home run.

"I was not paying attention to that," Soler said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "I saw they were throwing the ball to each other, but I was not paying attention. If I paid attention, maybe I would've just tried hitting it even harder."

Once Soler's round was finished, he joined Avisaí­l Garc­ía in swapping and signing jerseys. Before heading back into the clubhouse, the Cuban-born Soler called for Dorante to relay a message to Bottas.

"I just wanted to let him know that I'm a big fan of F1 and I'm a big fan of his," Soler said. "I've been following him since he was with Mercedes-Benz, and I really needed the translator there because I wanted to make sure I could express what I wanted to say. So I took Luis and used him for that."

Added Bottas: "Always interesting to see other sports and get to know the top athletes in the world. Any sport -- if you want to be at the top -- so much work goes into it that not many people maybe see it. Really, really interesting always to get to go to these."