Perhaps the worst kept secret in Formula 1 has finally been confirmed, with Mercedes announcing Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas will be Lewis Hamilton’s team mate for 2017, while Felipe Massa has confirmed he will come out of retirement and race for Williams.
The length of Bottas’ contract was not disclosed, with Mercedes simply announcing him for the 2017 season. The team were left with a shock vacancy at the beginning of December when 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg announced his retirement effective immediately. Many names were linked to the seat, including Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein, but ultimately Bottas was selected, with many feeling Wehrlein was slightly too inexperienced for the seat with just a season under his belt to Bottas’ four seasons.
“We did the contract today and obviously I’ve been dreaming for a long time to drive for a team like this, a team of champions,” said Bottas. “I can’t wait to start working properly. There is still enough time until testing to get everything sorted. My goal for the first race is to get all the points available that there’s absolutely possible in the car. I’m still missing my first win, so that’s the first mission.”
Bottas becomes Hamilton’s second team mate at Mercedes, and after four seasons of the fractious Hamilton/ Rosberg partnership, Team Principal Toto Wolff must be looking forward to what is expected to be a much easier relationship to manage.
“Valtteri is a no-nonsense guy: down to earth, straightforward and very focused,” said Wolff. “Pretty Finnish, to be honest, and a great fit for us. 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. One thing is for sure: as I know Valtteri, he will give it everything.”
Although he has been without a victory in his four years in Formula 1, Bottas has proven his credentials with nine podiums at Williams. He has also never been out-scored over a season by a team mate. Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams had some parting words for the Finn, who has been with the team since he made his debut in the sport.
“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.”
He was not the only driver to be announced today as it has been confirmed Felipe Massa will be coming out of retirement to partner Lance Stroll at Williams for 2017. Bottas’ former team, made it very clear they would only let Bottas go if Mercedes, their engine suppliers, came up with a deal which made financial sense for them and they could source an experienced replacement. The full details of what exactly Mercedes had to promise Williams have not been revealed, however the suggestion is the team have had to give a sever engine cost reduction to Williams.
Massa, 35, announced his retirement at the end of last season after a record 15 years in the sport. However, with Bottas leaving Williams had a dilemma, they needed an experienced over the age of 25 to partner the 18-year-old Canadian rookie Lance Stroll. This was because of their title sponsor, drinks giant Martini. The team ultimately decided it would be easiest to tempt Massa back out of retirement on a one year contract.
“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,” said Massa in a statement today. “Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40.”
Claire Williams was quick to welcome Massa back to the team and seemed positive about the prospect of working with the Brazilian for another season.
“Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.”
Both drivers will be getting behind the wheels of their respective cars when winter testing commences at Barcelona next month.
Valtteri Bottas’ F1 stats
Debut: Australian GP 2013
Best finish: 2nd (GBR and GER 2014)
Fastest laps: 1
Championship best: 4th (2014)
Felipe Massa’s F1 stats
Teams: Sauber, Ferrari, Williams
Debut: Australian GP 2002
Fastest laps: 15
Championship best: 2nd (2008)
Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release