Hamilton, Bottas team up; cry-baby Massa repents

  • Lewis Hamilton gets a new partner for F1 2017
  • Retired Rosberg new ambassador with Merc motorsport
  • ‘Time to see how Valtteri can step up to challenge
Image: Mercedes / Newspress
INTO A HOTTER SEAT: Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has valted up the ratings to score a racing seat with Mercedes, replacing retired driver Nico Rosberg on its F1 team. Image: Mercedes / Newspress

STUTTGART, Germany – Valtteri Bottas, 27, has been signed from engine customer team Williams to replace now-retired Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team driver Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg, it was also announced, would take up an ‘ambassadorial’ function with Mercedes Motorsport.

It’s been 45 days since Rosberg dropped what many pundits described as “the bombshell” of his immediate retirement from F1 after winning the 2016 championship – The Corner believes mainly because of team mate Lewis Hamilton’s bad luck with mechanical problems early in the season.

Image: Mercedes / Newspress
VALTTERI BOTTAS: Image: Mercedes / Newspress

Whatever, Merc had to fill the empty seat, to find a new partner to help the Big Star brand win the Constructors’ title yet again – and, The Corner hopes, help Hamilton to a fourth Drivers’ title.

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The announcement was made on Monday morning (Jan 16) after what Mercedes described as “six weeks of detailed evaluation, deliberation and negotiation”.

“The answer can now be confirmed officially,” the team announced. “We signed Valtteri Bottas this morning.”

Bottas, from Nastola, Finland, has had four seasons in F1 with Williams during which he started 77 times (Merc data) and reached the podium nine times. Google reports he’s scored 411 points from 78 GP’s with his best results two second places. His best grid position was second.

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Silver Arrows’ (the long-time name for Mercedes racing team) team boss Toto Wolff introduced Bottas to the news media: “Sometimes in life,” he said, “unexpected circumstances provide interesting opportunities. Nico’s decision (to quit) was a big surprise – certainly a challenging situation for the team.

BOTTAS: ‘VERY EXCITING TIMES’

“However, weathering the storm makes you more resilient – we see this as an opportunity for the team to grow. Valtteri is a no-nonsense guy: down to earth, straightforward and very focused. His track record in the junior categories is impressive and he’s had nine podiums in F1 – now it’s time for the next level.

“Can he step up to challenge for race wins and for championships? Well we’re already behind the curve in terms of preparing for the 2017 season; we’ll have a busy programme integrating him into the team.

“I know he will give it his everything.”

Bottas himself was reported to be “cautiously optimistic” when he met the team on Monday. “Very exciting times,” he grinned. “It’s going to take a while to comprehend that this is happening. Racing race in a team with such great history is a dream come true.

“I’m really proud to and grateful to Mercedes for trusting my skills.”

70 DAYS TO GO TO START OF SEASON

His first experience with Mercedes power was in F3 in 2009. Then came three years of Mercedes power with customer team Williams though he agreed there were many things to learn about the car and how the team operated at the factory, in testing and at races.

Valtteri will be paired with perhaps the most ferociously fast team mate in the sport and there’s only 70 days to the start of the Australian GP in Melbourne.

Valtteri said during the announcement media function: “I have no illusions about the task ahead. I’m ready to work hard, to prove my skills but I’m 100% ready. I’m training hard to be at my physical best – I’m full of energy and ready to get to work.”

Other announcements in the F1 world include Pascal Wehrlein’s signing with Sauber and Felipe Massa, who so tearfully sobbed his way along the pits in the arms of his wife and quit the Williams team at the end of the 2016 season, announcing his miraculous return.

The Corner wonders if, under such circumstances, he will be truly competitive. The racing will tell…

WOLFF HAPPY FOR WEHRLEIN’S SIGNING

Wolff expanded on the situation during his team announcement: “I’m pleased to know Pascal will race for Sauber to continue his development in F1. He had a good first season with Manor and we feel this is the right path for him in the sport.”

Final words from Bottas: “I had a great seven years with Williams, starting as a test driver in 2010. I’m very proud of what we achieved and I leave with some very good memories.”

And so recently retired Rosberg? Well, his first commitment as a corporate ambassador will be today (Jan 17) in Geneva, alongside former team mate Hamilton at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie on behalf of one of the team’s sponsors, IWC Schaffhausen.

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