Valtteri Bottas to team with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2017
After weeks of speculation, Mercedes has finally confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will replace the retired Nico Rosberg this season.
Williams had earlier said that Bottas is moving to Mercedes, and will be replaced by Felipe Massa.
Later on, Bottas made a speech to team members in the Brackley factory, accompanied by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
Although Mercedes did initially explore all its options – and there was no shortage of enquiring phone calls – other big names were contractually tied elsewhere.
The deal was eased by the fact that Williams is a Mercedes customer, as well as Wolff’s role as part of the Finn’s management team. However, Pascal Wehrlein was kept on standby as a back-up in case he was needed.
In addition to coming to a commercial arrangement with Mercedes, Williams had to find a replacement, and persuading Massa to return from his brief retirement, which was forced on him by the lack of a top drive, was not too difficult.
“It’s very exciting times for me,” said Bottas. “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. I’m really impressed with the facilities and I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone better. My first experience with Mercedes power was in F3 back in 2009 and, of course, I know the Power Unit well from the last three years with Williams. But there are a lot of new things to learn with the car and also with how the team operates at the factory, in testing and at the races.”
Bottas knows that he faces a tough challenge.
“I’m ready to work hard, to prove myself to the team and to prove my skills. It’s going to be a challenging season and joining a new team makes it more work than normal. But I’m 100% ready for that. I’m training hard to be at my physical best because it will be much tougher with these new cars. I always set the bar really high, so my target is to perform from the first race. I’m full of energy and ready to get to work for this year and hopefully many more to come with Mercedes.”
Wolff noted: “I think Valtteri fits very well in our team, as a driver he’s very fast, and he has also the heart in the right place. He shares our values and passion, and he’s modest and humble and he’s hard working.”
Wehrlein, meanwhile, will race for Sauber in 2017.