Valtteri Bottas joins Mercedes to replace Nico Rosberg as Williams confirm Felipe Massa will remain in F1

Bottas switches to Mercedes while Massa will postpone his planned retirement for another year to partner Lance Stroll at Williams

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mercedes have signed Valtteri Bottas as the replacement for recently retired Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg, with Williams confirming the news in their own announcement that Felipe Massa has been persuaded to extend his career by one more season to replace the Finn.

Bottas had been the frontrunner to replace 2016 world champion Rosberg ever since the German announced his shock retirement in December last year, though despite initial reports claiming his replacement would be announced early in the new year, the paddock was put on hold to see who would fill the vacancy with the reigning constructor champions.

On a busy day of motorsport news, Mercedes finally confirmed that Bottas would partner Lewis Hamilton for the 2017 campaign, although full confirmation only came after Williams had already announced that the 27-year-old Finn was leaving for the Silver Arrows.

Bottas has agreed a one-year contract with Mercedes with the possibility for an extension, while Rosberg will stay on with Mercedes in an ambassadorial role. With Bottas only initially tied down to the seat until for 2017, the prospect of Mercedes launching a move for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel remains a very real possibility, with the four-time world champion out of contract at the end of the year.

"It's very exciting times for me," Bottas said. "I think it's going to take a while to understand that this is really happening.

"It's definitely another dream come true, to race in another team with such great history - especially in the recent years, which have been so impressive. I'm really proud to become a part of that and grateful to everyone at Mercedes for trusting my skills and giving me this opportunity.

"I've had a really warm welcome so far. Of course, I have a lot more people to meet and new faces to remember. But initially everything has felt very good."

As part of the deal, Mercedes executive director Toto Wollff has had to end his role as Bottas’s manager due to the conflict of interest, but the German was on hand to praise the Finn as he was presented at the team’s headquarters in Brackley.

"Sometimes in life, unexpected circumstances provide interesting opportunities," Wolff added.

"Nico's decision in December was a big surprise, and certainly a challenging situation for the team to handle. But weathering the storm makes you more resilient and we see this as another opportunity for the team to grow.

"Valtteri is a no-nonsense guy, down to earth, straightforward and very focused. Pretty Finnish, to be honest, and a great fit for us.

lewis-hamilton-nico-rosberg-valterri-bottas.jpg
Hamilton's new teammate at Mercedes will be Bottas (right), who replaces Nico Rosberg (centre) (Getty)

"He has an impressive track record in the junior categories and nine podiums in F1. But now it's time for the next level, to see how he can step up to challenge for race wins and for championships.

"We know that we are already behind the curve in terms of preparations for the new season, so we've got a busy programme to get him integrated into the team. One thing is for sure: as I know Valtteri, he will give it everything."

Bottas has claimed nine podiums to date but is yet to secure his first Grand Prix victory, and he signalled his intention to stand on the top step of the podium in 2017 while helping the Silver Arrows to claim as many points as possible.

felipe-massa.jpg
Felipe Massa comes out of retirement to replace former teammate Bottas at Williams (Getty)

 

His departure means that 35-year-old Massa will remain on the grid this season, despite retiring from the sport after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

A Williams statement confirmed: “Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm that Felipe Massa has agreed to re-join Williams on a one-year deal, coming out of retirement to replace Valtteri Bottas who the team has released to join Mercedes for the 2017 season.”

Massa, who will partner rookie Lance Stroll, added: “Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams. I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve. Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.

“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I'm grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

It was also confirmed on Monday that former Manor F1 driver and Mercedes development driver Pascal Wehrlein has agreed to drive for Sauber in 2017 where he will partner Swede Marcus Ericsson.

22-year-old Wehrlein, who replaces the departed Felipe Nasr, said: "I am very delighted at being a part of the Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming Formula One season," Wehrlein said. "It is a new challenge in a new team, and I am really excited and looking forward to this new adventure.

"Our objective is to establish ourselves in the midfield and to score points on a regular basis. That being said, I will do my best to support Sauber.

The Williams’ deputy team principal, Claire Williams, confirmed that the chance to driver for the reigning world champions was “a fantastic opportunity” for Bottas, who was presented by Mercedes shortly after the Williams announcement in a live Facebook stream.

“I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign,” Williams said in her statement. “With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity.

“Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.”

felipe-massa1.jpg
Massa thought he said farewell to his fans in 2016 but will return for one more year (Getty)

It was also confirmed on Monday that former Manor F1 driver and Mercedes development driver Pascal Wehrlein has agreed to drive for Sauber in 2017 where he will partner Swede Marcus Ericsson.

22-year-old Wehrlein, who replaces the departed Felipe Nasr, said: "I am very delighted at being a part of the Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming Formula One season," Wehrlein said. "It is a new challenge in a new team, and I am really excited and looking forward to this new adventure.

pascal-wehrlein1.jpg
Wehrlein spent the 2016 season with Manor and moves to Sauber for 2017 (Getty)

"Our objective is to establish ourselves in the midfield and to score points on a regular basis. That being said, I will do my best to support Sauber.

"Now I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the team and to tackling the preparations for the 2017 season. I want to say a big thank you to Sauber for trusting in me and giving me this great chance. And surely, a huge thanks also goes to Mercedes for the support."

Nasr leaves the Swiss team despite securing the two points in Brazil last year that elevated Sauber above Manor in the constructors’ championship that effectively forced Manor into administration earlier this month, with their participation in March’s Australian Grand Prix now in serious doubt.

Comments