Bot­tas to re­place Ros­berg at Mercedes

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Wil­liams drive a hard bar­gain fol­low­ing pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions with Mercedes

Valt­teri Bot­tas will take Nico Ros­berg’s re­cently va­cated Mercedes seat along­side Lewis Hamilton, fol­low­ing Ros­berg’s de­ci­sion to re­tire af­ter win­ning last year’s world ti­tle. Bot­tas, 27, was Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff’s only se­ri­ous can­di­date, and the deal was due to be fi­nalised just af­ter this is­sue of F1 Rac­ing went to press.

So keen was Wolff to se­cure Bot­tas that Wil­liams were able to push for a much bet­ter deal be­fore re­leas­ing him from his con­tract. They will keep on Felipe Massa, who was due to re­tire from the sport, in place of Bot­tas.

Dur­ing the ex­tended con­trac­tual ne­go­ti­a­tions over the win­ter break, Wil­liams deputy team prin­ci­pal Claire Wil­liams said: “I’m de­lighted to see that a team like Mercedes list Valt­teri as a po­ten­tial re­place­ment for Nico. We have al­ways known Valt­teri is one of the sport’s key tal­ents and are proud that the cham­pi­onship lead­ers recog­nise this.

“How­ever, Wil­liams has its own am­bi­tions and we must al­ways en­sure we give our team the best op­por­tu­nity to move for­ward. Any changes would only be made if Wil­liams re­main in a strong po­si­tion to com­pete and de­velop in 2017.

“If we did al­low Valt­teri to leave, we would do this only if an ex­pe­ri­enced, cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive was avail­able, such as some­one like Felipe Massa, for ex­am­ple. What­ever we de­cide, it must be in the best in­ter­ests of this team.”

Wil­liams have cho­sen to keep on Massa as a re­place­ment for Bot­tas be­cause they need a driver over the age of 25 to sat­isfy the pro­mo­tional re­quire­ments of ti­tle spon­sor Mar­tini, who can­not use two drivers un­der that age to pro­mote their prod­uct.

Wil­liams have al­ready signed 18-year-old Cana­dian rookie Lance Stroll as one of their drivers in 2017, and this means Wil­liams can­not use Pas­cal Wehrlein, who Wolff had made clear was avail­able should they want him, al­though he was not part of the orig­i­nal deal of­fered.

Massa had an­nounced his re­tire­ment from F1 last sea­son, even though he had al­ways made it clear he wanted to race full-time in 2017. His prob­lem was that he had no other com­pet­i­tive F1 team to go to, and Wil­liams wanted to re­tain Bot­tas along­side Stroll – who is bring­ing a re­puted £20m in spon­sor­ship to the team.

Wil­liams and Massa agreed be­fore Christ­mas the terms of a deal in which he would re­join the team, as­sum­ing a deal between Bot­tas and Mercedes is also agreed.

Wil­liams re­jected Wolff’s ini­tial of­fer, which was a re­duc­tion of $14.2m in the team’s Mercedes en­gine bill, but Wolff came back to them with an im­proved propo­si­tion.

A fi­nal deal was due to have been struck between this is­sue of F1 Rac­ing go­ing to press

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