Claire Williams admitted that she expected a call from the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team to enquire about the availability of Valtteri Bottas the moment that Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from Formula 1, and believes the Finn is on the verge of making the switch to the German team.
Bottas has been a part of the Williams F1 Team since 2010 when he was a test driver, and has competed for the Grove-based team since 2013, securing nine podium finishes in that time, but Williams, the Deputy Team Principal, feels it would have been wrong to deny the twenty-seven-year-old the opportunity to join Mercedes.
Williams admitted that the team did stand in the way of a potential move to the Scuderia Ferrari team in 2015 but once Toto Wolff made contact, it was clear that allowing Bottas to join Mercedes was for the best for all parties.
“I suppose as soon as Nico made his announcement, I knew the call was going to come from Toto,” said Williams at the Autosport International show in Birmingham. “I know that he’s admired Valtteri – many people do admire Valtteri’s talent.
“For us, you don’t want to stand in the way of a driver who has the opportunity to go and race finally in a car that’s winning races, it’s winning world championships.
“Everybody knows Ferrari were after Valtteri, in 2015, and we stood in his way and he stood by us. You have to do the right thing sometimes but we as a team have to do the right thing by the 650 other employees that we have at Williams.
“We need to make sure that if we are to release Valtteri, we have the best credible option to replace him with but also put in the best structure that supports that moving forward. I wish I could announce who it was, we are still crossing the Ts and dotting the Is at the moment with all of the contracts.
“We will be making an announcement shortly because we are testing soon and we all want to know who’s going to be driving for us.”
Williams said that it was not a guarantee that the team would allow Bottas to make the switch to Mercedes despite the German marquee supplying engines to the Grove-based outfit, and she believes those involve in the negotiations would have accepted being told that he was unavailable should Williams have wanted to keep hold of the Finn.
“Just because we’re a customer of Mercedes, Toto picks up the phone to me and I go ‘alright then’,” added Williams. “Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t just go, ‘alright then’, when someone phones me up if they want something.
“We pay for our engines, we pay on time for our engines and therefore they don’t have any right to come to us and say, ‘you need to release this driver for us now’. “If I decided not to release Valtteri, then Mercedes would be fine – ‘no problem, thank you for thinking about it’.”