More than a month removed from the surprise retirement of 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG Petronas has found its new driver for 2017.
Valtteri Bottas, with 77 grands prix to his record, including nine podiums, will drive for the sport’s most dominant team in 2017 following weeks of speculation.
“I’m really proud to become a part of [the team],” Bottas said. “Grateful to everyone at Mercedes for trusting my skills and giving me this opportunity.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Bottas’ past track record will only improve once the lights go out at Australia on March 26. Despite the loss of Rosberg in December, Wolff is confident for a stronger 2017.
“Sometimes in life, unexpected circumstances provide interesting opportunities,” Wolff said. “Nico’s decision in December was a big surprise, certainly a challenging situation for the team to handle.
“Valtteri is a no-nonsense guy, down to earth, straightforward and very focused. Pretty Finnish to be honest. He has an impressive track record in the junior categories and nine podiums in F1. But now it’s time for the next level. I know Valtteri, he will give it everything.”
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) January 16, 2017
Spending his four F1 seasons with Williams F1 Team, Bottas scored his first-career points in the 2013 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, finishing eighth. Soon, the Finnish driver exploded on the scene in 2014, racking up six podiums and fourth in the championship standings.
The success has dwindled since for the 27-year-old, scoring only three podiums while experiencing a decline in average finish and championship position. That downward spiral could end in 2017 in arguably the fastest car in any current-day motor sport.
“It’s very exciting times for me,” he said. “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.”
Pairing with the sport’s highest character in Lewis Hamilton, the cool-tempered Bottas is ready to take on the three-time champion.
“I think with Lewis, we will be a strong pair together,” he said. “I really respect him as a driver and a person. He is so quick, everyone knows how quick he is, so he is a great reference for me as well.
“I am sure we will be close and we will be both pushing each other forward. But I am sure we can work together and help the team as much as we can. We have experience, we both go flat out, so let’s see.”
Felipe Massa will come out of a short retirement to replace Bottas’ Williams seat to better train incoming rookie Lance Stroll.