Valtteri Bottas has been announced as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes in 2017 following his release from Williams.
Bottas made the switch to Mercedes after Nico Rosberg dramatically retired from Formula 1 just days after winning the world championship. Bottas signed a one year contract with the option for additional years, while Rosberg stays on at Mercedes in an ambassadorial role.
The move means that Felipe Massa will come out of retirement to replace the Finn and re-join Williams. Massa only decided to retire from Formula 1 last season when Williams offered contracts to Bottas and Lance Stroll, leaving the Brazilian without a seat.
Huge opportunity for Bottas
A seat at Mercedes is highly coveted and Bottas now has the best opportunity of his career to consistently get on the podium and target the world championship.
The 27-year old has been in Formula 1 for four seasons consistently performing at Williams – without being spectacular – alongside Maldonado and then Massa.
“It’s mega to be driving a Silver Arrow this year,” said Bottas at the Mercedes factory in Brackley.
“My goal is immediately at the first race to get all the points that are available. I guarantee I will be giving it all.”
“This is my fifth season in F1. I got nine podiums with Williams, but I’m still missing my first win, so that’s my first mission.”
But a seat at the best team in Formula 1 brings expectations and challenges.
Given the best performing car on the track, Bottas will be expected to score regular points for Mercedes and challenge for wins.
On top of that, the Finn will now have to deal with his sometimes prickly team-mate, Hamilton, and a new type of intense rivalry.
Direct replacement for Rosberg
Bottas is not renowned for his pace or aggressive driving but, in many respects, is seen as a direct replacement for Rosberg.
He is a steady hand: dependable and calm, and not as demanding as Hamilton.
And a like-for-like replacement would have appealed to Mercedes to keep the team dynamic and not upset Hamilton’s perceived place in the team.
As Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff, said: “Valtteri shares our values and passion, and he’s modest, humble and hard-working.”
“Valtteri is a no-nonsense guy: down to earth, straightforward and very focused.”
How did Bottas move to Mercedes?
Bottas always seemed destined to join Mercedes once Reosberg announced his retirement.
Toto Wolff had managed Bottas so there was a personal connection. Plus, Williams purchase Mercedes engines so a deal could be done to sweeten the loss of their experienced driver.
Meanwhile, the top drivers – including Ricciardo, Verstappen and Vettel – were locked away in contracts and Carlos Sainz from Toro Rosso, who was available, never sufficiently attracted Mercedes.
As it transpired, the only other serious contender for the seat was Mercedes’ young driver Pascal Wherlein.
Wherlein is highly regarded and drove for Manor last season. But Wolff didn’t think that he brought enough experience to the top team and Wherlein has now secured a seat at Sauber for 2017.
With Bottas now confirmed at Mercedes, he is looking ahead to an exciting season.
“I’m ready to work hard, to prove myself to the team and to prove my skills.”