Mercedes has confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will partner Lewis Hamilton for the 2017 Formula 1 season.
The Brackley-based team has signed the Finn on as a replacement for Nico Rosberg, who stunned F1 when he decided to retire just five days after clinching the 2016 world title last November.
The 2017 season represents the first time Bottas will have a regular shot a race victories in F1. But a higher profile seat on the F1 grid comes greater pressure and expectation.
Bottas will leave Williams, the team where he had spent his entire F1 career since winning the GP3 title back in 2011. That season was the 27-year-old’s most recent championship success and he also scored his most recent race victory at the Donington round of that year’s British Formula 3 championship.
Speaking as the news was announced, Bottas said: “It’s very exciting times for me. I think it’s going to take a while to understand that this is really happening. It’s definitely another dream come true, to race in another team with such great history – especially in the recent years, which have been so impressive. I’m really proud to become a part of that and grateful to everyone at Mercedes for trusting my skills and giving me this opportunity.
“I’m ready to work hard, to prove myself to the team and to prove my skills. It’s going to be a challenging season and joining a new team makes it more work than normal. But I’m 100 per cent ready for that. I’m training hard to be at my physical best because it will be much tougher with these new cars. I always set the bar really high, so my target is to perform from the first race. I’m full of energy and ready to get to work for this year and hopefully many more to come with Mercedes.”
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ head of motorsport, described Bottas as “a great fit” for the team, which has won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ world championships and is trying to achieve the feat over winning over two different formulas with F1’s new chassis rules being introduced in 2017.
He said: “Sometimes in life, unexpected circumstances provide interesting opportunities. Nico’s decision in December was a big surprise – certainly a challenging situation for the team to handle. But weathering the storm makes you more resilient and we see this as another opportunity for the team to grow.
“Valtteri is a no-nonsense guy: down to earth, straightforward and very focused. Pretty Finnish, to be honest, and a great fit for us. He has an impressive track record in the junior categories and nine podiums in F1. But now it’s time for the next level, to see how he can step up to challenge for race wins and for Championships. We know that we are already behind the curve in terms of preparations for the new season, so we’ve got a busy programme to get him integrated into the team. One thing is for sure: as I know Valtteri, he will give it everything.”
The move to Mercedes will give Bottas the chance to fight at the front of the F1 grid on a regular basis and provides him with the opportunity to add Grand Prix wins to his nine podium finishes, which he scored for Williams between 2014 and 2016.
So far in his F1 career, Bottas has made 77 race starts and scored 411 points, with second place at the British and German races in 2014 representing his best results. The Finn also has one F1 fastest lap to his name, and won the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC championship and two Zandvoort Masters of Formula 3 events during his junior single seater career.
As we outlined in these pages, Bottas is in many ways a like-for-like replacement for Rosberg, who also began his F1 career with a stint at Williams. Rosberg went on to score 23 Grand Prix wins and the 2016 title while partnered with first Michael Schumacher and then Lewis Hamilton, two drivers that have 10 F1 titles between them.
James Allen’s View: This announcement is no surprise of course, but it’s good that it’s finally done and out in the open. Nico Rosberg’s retirement was a shock to Mercedes and the eco-system around them and they’ve done the logical thing in bringing in Valtteri Bottas who has extensive experience of the Mercedes power unit, enough experience near the front of F1 to know the characters he will be racing against and he also has a big hunger to succeed.
He is also mentored by Wolff and that will make it easier to settle in.
The dynamic with Lewis Hamilton will be interesting on that front as Hamilton has shown a tendency to talk of ‘me and them’ with his team when things aren’t going to his liking and having the boss’ protege in the other car could get political.
But Bottas himself is not political. He’s a failry straight forward guy who is getting a great opportunity. His fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen got a similar opportunity at McLaren when they were a winning team and he managed just one victory, getting otherwise blwon away by Hamilton in the other car. Will Bottas do better? I suspect that he will, but we might re-evaluate Nico Rosberg’s performances after this season.
One final note is that Ferrari considered Bottas to replace Raikkonen in 2016 but decided that the younger Finn had flatlined in his F1 development. Last season was hard to judge as Massa was not quite on the same level – let’s hope he raises his game in 2017 for Williams – so did Bottas develop of was he static against a declining Massa?
I think that like all proper racing drivers, the fact that he has a sniff of a victory will mean that he is right up for it this year. I expect Mercedes to race Red Bull for the championship and Bottas has plenty of experience of wheel to wheel stuff with Daniel Ricciardo, as well as a bit with Max Verstappen. I think Bottas will win in 2017 and I’d put Russia down as a likely location, if he hasn’t won before then. He’s never qualified lower than 3rd at Sochi – in a Williams!
What do you make of the news that Valtteri Bottas will race for Mercedes in 2017? How do you think he will perform? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.