Mercedes confirmed that Valtteri Bottas joins the F1 team from Brackley for the 2017 Formula One season.
“Sometimes in life, unexpected circumstances provide interesting opportunities. Nico [Rosberg]’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. 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.”
Valtteri was cautiously optimistic when he met his new team-mates in the factory today
“It’s very exciting times for me,” he grinned. “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. 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. There is genuine uncertainty about which team will emerge on top. Valtteri is paired with Lewis Hamilton and there are just 70 days until the red lights go out 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,” 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.”
The agreement for Valtteri Bottas to join Mercedes has not happened in isolation
The final pieces of the drivers’ puzzle have fallen into place for this year. And that has only been possible thanks to positive working relationships between all the teams involved in a complex chain of negotiations.
“On behalf of Mercedes, I must thank Williams for their cooperation in allowing Valtteri to make this move. And also Monisha [Kaltenborn] and Sauber for their patience during the past weeks,” concluded Toto. “It’s been a busy day in the driver market. I am pleased to know that Pascal will be racing at 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. It’s satisfying to have both of our Young Drivers taking on new challenges in F1 this year, with Esteban also racing at Force India. We’ll be following their progress closely; I’m sure we’ve got an exciting season ahead of us.”
From Valtteri, too, there were warm words for his friends and colleagues at Williams: “I had a great seven years there, starting as a test driver in 2010. I’m very proud of what we achieved together and I leave with some very good memories. My debut in F1, my first points and nine podiums all came with the guys and girls at Grove. So I must say a big thanks to everyone and I wish them all the very best for the future.”
Valtteri now begins a busy week of technical and physical preparations for the new season.
Mercedes confirmed that Nico has accepted an ambassadorial role with the team for 2017.