MASSA READY TO MAKE RAC­ING RE­TURN

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - Pho­tos: LAT

Felipe Massa is on the brink of seal­ing a re­turn to Wil­liams for this year, which would leave the way clear for Valt­teri Bot­tas to join Mercedes.

Brazil­ian Massa, 35, re­tired from grand prix rac­ing fol­low­ing the end of last season, but sources sug­gest he has ac­cepted an of­fer to con­tinue with Wil­liams for a fur­ther season in the wake of on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Grove team and Mercedes over Bot­tas.

Mercedes has been left with few op­tions to re­place the re­tir­ing Nico Ros­berg, and sees Bot­tas as the ideal fit for the team due to his level of ex­pe­ri­ence and Sil­ver Ar­rows head Toto Wolff be­ing part of the Finn’s man­age­ment team.

As Motorsport News closed for press prior to Christ­mas, Mercedes was due to en­ter fi­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions with Wil­liams to se­cure Bot­tas, with Massa be­ing drafted back to sta­bilise the team.

Wil­liams had been of­fered the use of Mercedes’ ju­nior driver Pas­cal Wehrlein as part of a trade deal for Bot­tas’s ser­vices from Mercedes. That orig­i­nal pro­posal also in­cluded a re­duc­tion in Wil­liams’ cus­tomer Mercedes en­gine bill of around £10m.

How­ever, Wil­liams did not wish to field two rookie driv­ers dur­ing a season that fea­tures sweep­ing changes to the tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions. The team has al­ready signed Canadian Lance Stroll, and wanted ex­pe­ri­ence along­side him to help with de­vel­op­ment and re­fine­ment of the new gen­er­a­tion F1 cars. ● Wil­liams also con­firmed that tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Pat Sy­monds was due to leave the team at the end of 2016. Sy­monds joined Wil­liams on a three-year con­tract in 2014 and helped the squad achieve a third-place fin­ish in the Con­struc­tors’ Cham­pi­onship that year and in 2015. Sy­monds’ de­par­ture co­in­cides with ques­tion marks over Paddy Lowe’s future at Mercedes. Lowe’s con­tract was also due to ex­pire at the end of last year, leav­ing him free to join a dif­fer­ent team if he wished. Lowe could even form part of a lever­age deal for Bot­tas.

Massa and Bot­tas are hold­ing the key to the driver mar­ket

Massa could be set for an­other season

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