It’s been 45 days since Nico Rosberg dropped the bombshell of his immediate retirement from Formula One. And it left the team with a conundrum: how to best fill the vacant seat alongside three-time champion Lewis Hamilton in order to defend the Constructors’ Championship?
Today Mercedes have finally confirmed that they have signed Valtteri Bottas as their new driver. The 27-year-old native of Nastola, Finland has completed four seasons in Formula One with Williams, making 77 starts and scoring 9 career podiums so far.
“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,” explained Toto Wolff as he introduced the fourth driver to race for the Silver Arrows in the modern era.
“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.”
“It’s very exciting times for me,” said Valtteri Bottas. “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’ve had a really warm welcome so far. Of course, I have a lot more people to meet and new faces to remember. But initially everything has felt very good. I’m really impressed with the facilities and I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone better. My first experience with Mercedes power was in F3 back in 2009 and, of course, I know the Power Unit well from the last three years with Williams. But there are a lot of new things to learn with the car and also with how the team operates at the factory, in testing and at the races.”
The scale of the challenge ahead cannot be underestimated. New aerodynamic regulations mean a reset for the entire field and there is genuine uncertainty about which team will emerge on top; Valtteri is paired with probably the most ferociously fast team-mate in the sport, Lewis Hamilton; and there are just 70 days until the red lights go out at the start of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
“We have confidence in Valtteri’s ability and it’s one of the reasons that he is the driver we set our sights on this winter,” continued Toto. “The next weeks will be busy as we work to build relationships so Valtteri understands the team and the car. But that’s an exciting challenge that will bring us fresh energy and a new dynamic between the drivers. And, of course, we’re working hard to give Lewis and Valtteri the car they need to do the job.”
Valtteri is under no illusions about the task ahead, “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% 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.”
The agreement for Valtteri to join Mercedes has not happened in isolation. Today’s major F1 announcements also includes Pascal Wehrlein signing with Sauber for 2017, and that Felipe Massa will be making its return to Williams in 2017.
As Valtteri now begins a busy week of technical and physical preparations for the new season, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport also announced that Nico has accepted an ambassadorial role with the team for 2017.