As the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team edge towards the conclusion of a hectic winter, the Brackley-based marque are confident that their new signing Valtteri Bottas can bring much to the team and is just as fast as the man who has occupied the seat last for the last seven years.
Following the intense climax to the 2016 Formula One season in Abu Dhabi, Mercedes’ German driver Nico Rosberg announced his shock retirement as a result of achieving his childhood dream of clinching the driver’s world championship. Rosberg’s decision left Mercedes with a quandary as to which direction they would head in regards to his replacement. Team boss Toto Wolff maintained that they would not be rushed into a snap decision and the team’s hierarchy duly mulled over the available options leading up to Christmas.
For a while, the world of Formula One was awash with rumour and speculation as to who the team would settle on, and drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr were touted. The aforementioned were tied into contracts that took them through 2017 however and would have required rather costly buy-outs in order to secure their release.
It started to become clear that Mercedes had opted to bring Bottas as his visit to Brackley pre-Christmas became public knowledge. The winter’s worst-kept secret was confirmed earlier this week when a Mercedes live announcement revealed that the Finn would indeed be partnering triple world champion Lewis Hamilton next season.
Later in the week, Wolff revealed some detail on the freshly-signed contract which is believed to initially last for a year with the option for more based on performance. The Austrian explained that the team wishes to keep its options open as the driver market begins to open up at the tail end of 2017, but also stated “Equally we have great faith and confidence in him that he can stay with us for a long time but now we need to see how the season goes” as he reiterated his belief in Bottas to Finnish podcast Formulacast.
Fellow Austrian and Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has since moved to emphasise his team’s belief that Bottas will be a success in claiming that he is “similarly as fast as Nico” in an interview with RTL. His ringing endorsement will serve as a boost for Bottas as he heads into a season in which he will be challenged like never before.
Attention now turns to the 2017 season as the uncertainty of the new technical regulations looms. Many are already debating as to whether Bottas can match his decorated team-mate. Lauda. thinks that Mercedes has chosen the “right man” and even went as far as saying that he believes the Finn can win the world championship.
As the scrutiny intensifies on Bottas to levels that he has not experienced before, the new season promises intrigue and excitement as the potential for a shake-up of the grid is very real. Bottas will hope that he can hit the ground running in Melbourne at the start of the season in which he will hope can be a breakthrough.