F1’s worst kept secret has been confirmed, with the Mercedes-AMG team confirming Valtteri Bottas as its second driver for the 2017 season, partnering Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes’ 2017 plans were thrown into disarray following the shock retirement of 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, with all of the top talent on the grid signed up.
While Bottas was under contract with Williams for the coming season, his contract was more malleable than most other drivers given Mercedes supplies Williams with powertrains and AMG F1 boss Toto Wolff is part of Bottas’s management team.
Now that Bottas has signed with Mercedes, Wolff has stated he will sever all management ties to prevent any possible conflicts of interest.
The 27-year-old Finn joined F1 in 2013 with Williams, the team with which he has spent his entire career, scoring nine podiums with a best finish of second at the 2014 British and German grands prix.
Mercedes’ other option was to promote its junior drive Pascal Wehrlein, however it was felt that it was too early in his career to partner three-time world champion Hamilton. Wehrlein has instead been placed with Sauber for 2017.
Bottas’s move has led to Felipe Massa coming out of retirement to continue his relationship at Williams. Massa was effectively forced into retirement due to Williams signing 19-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll, however circumstances have now given the Brazilian a career lifeline.
With the huge technical shake-up for 2017, an experienced driver was required, while it’s believed Williams major sponsor, alcoholic drinks maker Martini, required an older driver for promotional purposes.
Mercedes’ former technical director, Paddy Lowe, is also expected to move to Williams, however it’s unclear (but unlikely) that this is tied in to the Bottas move.
The 2017 F1 season kicks off in Melbourne on March 26.