The news today is that Mercedes confirm Valtteri Bottas as the replacement for current World Champion Nico Rosberg will hardly come as a surprise to many, but the deal is finally done. The Finnish driver, 27, will partner three-time title victor Lewis Hamilton at the Brackley-based team.
Despite speculation that the likes of Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo could be considered for the most coveted seat in motorsport, Mercedes eventually settled on Bottas, who moves from Williams. Bottas has only raced for Williams in the past and thus will pass the record for most F1 starts having only ever driven for one team back to the late Jim Clark.
Bottas had a strong 2016, despite being given a Williams which was not to the standard of the two seasons prior. He was the only Williams driver to reach the podium last year, and was the most dominant driver against his team mate in qualifying – beating Felipe Massa (who will replace Bottas at Williams) 17-4.
This announcement also confirms that Pascal Wehrlein will drive for Sauber this season, following the apparent demise of the Manor team. As Bottas is not a member of Mercedes’ junior programme, the team may come under fire for not taking advantage of their own stables.
Bottas has had much success against his team mates in F1 to date, having not been beaten across a season by either Pastor Maldonado or Massa. He has also produced some impressive performances during his time at Williams – third place on the grid in the uncompetitive 2013 car at Canada, coming from the back to second place at Silverstone a year later, before nearly beating Kimi Raikkonen’s superior Ferrari in the points in 2015. 2016 did not produce many highlights, but drives such as fifth at Malaysia and third at Canada drew praise.
This effectively fills in the rest of the silly season puzzle which was thrown completely wayward following Rosberg’s retirement announcement.