Bottas is con­firmed as Lewis’s Merc team-mate

Lewis adds his seal of ap­proval to a deal to move “nice guy” Valt­teri Bottas from Wil­liams to the Mercedes hot seat for 2017

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Valt­teri Bottas will re­place Nico Ros­berg as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes this year, as part of a cas­cade of deals that nally brought the 2017 driver mar­ket to a con­clu­sion.

The 27-year-old Fin­nish racer had been at the top of Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff’s wish list from the mo­ment Nico Ros­berg an­nounced his re­tire­ment from the sport, last De­cem­ber. But it took Wolff un­til mid-Jan­uary to nally con­clude a deal with Wil­liams to re­lease Bottas.

Separately, Wolff se­cured Mercedes pro­tégé Pas­cal Wehrlein another sea­son of gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in F1, with Sauber. Wolff felt Wehrlein had yet to prove him­self and was not ready for a top-line drive.

Bottas has proven his con­sis­tency at Wil­liams. But there are ques­tion marks over his ab­so­lute pace – his su­pe­ri­or­ity over Felipe Massa in three sea­sons as his team-mate was nowhere near as marked as Fer­nando Alonso’s when Alonso and Massa were part­ners at Ferrari from 2010-13.

Hamilton gave his bless­ing to Bottas be­com­ing his team-mate dur­ing a meet­ing at Wolff’s house be­fore Christ­mas, when they also dis­cussed the fall-out from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton had said in post-sea­son in­ter­views that he felt “dis­re­spected” by team or­ders to speed up while try­ing to back Ros­berg into ri­vals in a vain at­tempt to se­cure the ti­tle. Ac­cord­ing to Wolff: “Lewis said he thought Valt­teri was a nice guy; one of the guys he ac­tu­ally got along with well in For­mula 1 and he felt he was a good op­tion.”

Bottas, whose con­tract with Wil­liams had one more year to run, has signed for a sin­gle sea­son at Mercedes, al­though there are op­tions to ex­tend. Wolff wanted room to ma­noeu­vre at the end of this sea­son, when the con­tracts of Alonso at McLaren and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel at Ferrari come up for re­newal. Wolff can­not ig­nore driv­ers of their cal­i­bre, but has reser­va­tions about how they would gel with Hamilton, since all three have very self-fo­cused ap­proaches to team work.

Mercedes’ deal with Wil­liams in­cluded a guar­an­tee that they would let their former tech­ni­cal boss Paddy Lowe join im­me­di­ately if Wil­liams could strike a deal with him (see p22).

Massa serves as an ef­fec­tive stop­gap for Wil­liams, who needed an ex­pe­ri­enced and proven team leader to act as a bench­mark for their other driver, 18-year-old Cana­dian rookie Lance Stroll, who brings spon­sor­ship to the team worth at least $30m. They also needed a driver over 25 to ful­fil the mar­ket­ing re­quire­ments of their ti­tle spon­sor, the drinks gi­ant Mar­tini.

Wolff has helped Pas­cal Wehrlein (left) find a seat at Sauber, while Bottas’s move to Mercedes lets Massa stay on at Wil­liams

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