Finn to line up along­side Lewis

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook Pho­tos: Mercedes AMG, LAT

Valt­teri Bot­tas was of­fi­cially an­nounced as a Mercedes driver on Mon­day at the team’s Brack­ley head­quar­ters, after Wil­liams drafted Felipe Massa back into F1.

Mercedes and Wil­liams had been locked in months of ne­go­ti­a­tion over the ser­vices of Fin­nish ace Bot­tas, who will now move across to the Sil­ver Ar­rows to part­ner three-time world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton.

Bot­tas, who was man­aged by Mercedes team head Toto Wolff, took some lever­ag­ing from Wil­liams, with Mercedes’ tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Paddy Lowe likely go­ing the other way in a deal that is also thought to in­clude a re­duc­tion in Wil­liams’ en­gine bill.

After be­ing un­veiled as a Mercedes driver, Bot­tas said: “It’s an amaz­ing day for me and I’ve been dream­ing a long time to join a team like this, a team of cham­pi­ons. I’m so proud to be here, with a team with this sort of his­tory.

“My goal is im­me­di­ately in the first race to get all the points avail­able that are ab­so­lutely pos­si­ble from the car. I have faith in you [the engi­neers] that you will be build­ing a good car.

“I guar­an­tee I will be giv­ing it my all. I ap­pre­ci­ate this a lot. I wouldn’t miss this op­por­tu­nity. I will do ev­ery­thing I can.

“It will be my big­gest sea­son in F1. I got nine podi­ums with Wil­liams but I am still miss­ing my first win, so that is the first mis­sion. And we go from there.”

Bot­tas added that go­ing head-to-head with Hamil­ton would be a chal­lenge.

“I think with Lewis, we will be a strong pair to­gether,” he said. “I re­ally re­spect him as a driver and a per­son. He is so quick, every­one knows how quick he is, so he is a great ref­er­ence for me as well. I am sure we will be close and we will be both push­ing each other for­ward, but I am sure we can work to­gether as a team, work to­gether, to help the team as much as we can.”

Mercedes head Wolff added: “Valt­teri has great at­tributes and he’s been very suc­cess­ful. He shares our pas­sion and val­ues. He’s mod­est and hum­ble and hard work­ing. He fits very well within our team and his heart is in the right place.”

To al­low Bot­tas to leave, Wil­liams had to tempt Massa back from re­tire­ment. The Grove team was orig­i­nally of­fered the ser­vices of Mercedes ju­nior Pas­cal Wehrlein in a trade for Bot­tas, but the team wanted an ex­pe­ri­enced racer to part­ner with F1 rookie Lance Stroll this year.

Massa said only Wil­liams could have en­ticed him back. “I have a pas­sion for rac­ing, for com­pet­ing and for fight­ing on the track,” Massa said.

“My re­turn is not about see­ing F1 as the best op­tion, it’s about see­ing my role at Wil­liams as the best op­tion for me. I would not have re­turned for any other team on the grid.

“I have a strong love for Wil­liams as I have en­joyed three great years with this team, and there­fore com­ing back to help give sta­bil­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence to drive things for­ward in 2017 was some­thing that felt right to do.”

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