And guess what? One pops over to Mercedes and there’s Mr Bottas

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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?

Following six weeks of detailed evaluation, deliberation and negotiation, the answer can now be confirmed officially: they signed Valtteri Bottas this morning. 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.”

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 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 Wolff. “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.”

Bottas 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 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.”

 

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Valtteri Bottas ; Valtteri Bottas;

The agreement for Bottas to join Mercedes has not happened in isolation.

With today’s announcements that Pascal Wehrlein will join Sauber for 2017, and that Felipe Massa will return to Williams, the final pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place for this year. And this 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 and Sauber for their patience during the past weeks,” concluded Toto. “It’s been a busy day in the driver market and 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 Bottas, 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.”

As Bottas now begins a busy week of technical and physical preparations for the new season, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is pleased to confirm that Nico Rosberg has accepted an ambassadorial role with the team for 2017.

His first commitment will be tomorrow, in Geneva, alongside former team mate Lewis Hamilton at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) on behalf of team partner, IWC Schaffhausen.

For myself, I’ll be in Croydon.

Felipe Massa to replace Valtteri Bottas at Williams for 2017 season

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As expected Felipe Massa has agreed to rejoin Williams on a one-year deal, coming out of retirement to replace Valtteri Bottas who the team has released to join Mercedes for the 2017 season.

Felipe will race for a fourth consecutive season with Williams, alongside Lance Stroll who will make his Formula One debut in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Having joined Williams in 2014, Massa has been instrumental in the team’s improved performance supporting a resurgence to third place in the Constructors’ Championship in his first and second years.

Speaking about the announcement Massa said: “Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams. I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve. Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.

“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

So, there you have it…

Paddy Lowe has left Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

Just tidying up a few loose ends. As you’ll probably have heard by now, after three and a half very successful years, Paddy Lowe is now on what the F1 industry calls garden leave.

For the record, the senior directors remaining are Aldo Costa (Engineering), Mark Ellis (Performance), Rob Thomas (Chief Operating Officer) and Geoff Willis (Technology).

Further information “will be communicated in due course” but the smart money is on Paddy joining Williams and former Ferrari technical director James Allison filling Mr Lowe’s booties.

The 54-year-old Lowe led Mercedes to three drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles in a row from 2014 to 2016. The man needs a new challenge, as they say.

Manor Racing in administration

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Very sad news.

The directors of Manor Racing have placed the team’s operating company, Just Racing Services Ltd, into administration. Geoff Rowley and Phil Armstrong, partners of FRP Advisory LLP have been appointed joint administrators.

The decision comes after several months of discussions with investors in an effort to secure the best future for the team: discussions that had recently progressed with a particular investor to the signing of heads of terms. Unfortunately, the investor was unable to advance a final agreement in a timescale that would have avoided impacting upon the team’s 2017 racing programme and the directors had no alternative but to place the team in administration.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, owner of Manor Racing since January 2015, said: “The decision to put the team into administration represents a disappointing end to a two-year journey for Manor.

“Over much of the last year we have been in discussions with several investor groups, and had finally agreed terms of a sale to an Asian investment consortium in December. This would have provided the team with a strong platform for continued growth and development. Unfortunately time ran out before they could complete the transaction.

“Not wishing to repeat events of the past, we resolved in 2015 not to start any season that we did not know for certain we could complete, so we have taken the difficult decision to put the team’s operating company into administration.

“When I took over the team in 2015, the challenge was clear; it was imperative that the team finish in 10th place or better in 2016. For much of the season we were on track. But the dramatic race in Brazil ended our hopes of this result and ultimately brought into doubt the team’s ability to race in 2017.

“I look back on 2016 with pride in what Manor accomplished in what was the most successful year in the team’s history. I would like to thank the team for their constant hard work, determination and passion. We made a huge amount of progress on and off track but ultimately it was not enough.”

2016 Season progress
(Bahrain Grand Prix) 2014 2015 2016
Delta to pole 4.125s 6.142s 3.313s
Delta to fastest lap 4.805s 5.448s 0.966s
Highest position during race 17th 16th 7th
Cars behind at finish None None Sauber, Force India, Renault
As a similar barometer, in Austria Manor Racing qualified 19th (’14), 19th (’15), 12th (’16) and of course raced to P10 in ‘16.

Qualifying
Five times into Q2 (Austria, Spa, Italy, Mexico, Abu Dhabi)
Number of times Manor Racing out-qualified one Sauber car in 2016: 13
Number of times Manor Racing out-qualified both Sauber cars in 2016: 9

Race starts
– WEH was 2nd best driver at gaining position on the first lap of every race having gained +35 positions in the first lap so far this season (an average of 1.94 per race). Only beaten by Alonso with +43 positions. Esteban was 5th on the list with +27 places gained (average of 3.38 per race)

Speed
Top of the speed traps 9 times in 2016 in Qualifying (using GPS data).

Reliability

Only three retirements from 42 starts in 2016 due to technical problems

Classified at the end of more races (32) than its main competitors Sauber (31), McLaren (31) and Haas (30).

Sindelfingen day

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Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, Motorsport meets Sindelfingen, Mercedes AMG Petronas, F1, Formel 1, Lewis Hamilton ; Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, Motorsport meets Sindelfingen, Mercedes AMG Petronas, F1, Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton;

 

Sindelfingen: “THANK YOU!” – this was the message delivered by Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg and team-mate Lewis Hamilton together with their Mercedes crew today. It was high time to express gratitude for the immense support given by colleagues at Mercedes-Benz in the past three seasons. Rosberg also took the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone at Mercedes-Benz after announcing his retirement yesterday.

16,500 employees accepted the invitation to return to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen for a celebration of the Formula One hat-trick with the freshly crowned World Champion, and let’ not forget three-time World Champion Hamilton. The banner headline for the event was ‘Motorsport meets Sindelfingen’, so the employees and their families were treated to all the fun and glamour of the racetrack during the course of the afternoon.

There was a pit stop contest in which employees could try their hand at changing wheels and discover for themselves the standard required of the professional crews who fit a car with four new tyres in under two seconds on a race weekend. There was also an opportunity to demonstrate driving skills under track conditions on the DTM simulator. The drivers and team officials also gave fascinating insights into paddock life in a number of interview sessions.

But the demo laps on the Sindelfingen testing track were surely the highlight of the day. Among the vehicles given an outing were the Formula One World Championship-winning cars of 2014 and 2016 as well as various DTM and customer sports vehicles such as the Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Not only the Formula One stars Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon took their turn at the wheel but also the entire Mercedes-AMG DTM Team as well as junior talents such as Maximilian Günther and Mick Schumacher. To round off the spectacular, there were appearances by motorsport legends David Coulthard, Bernd Mayländer and DTM record champion Bernd Schneider.

Nico Rosberg: “It’s hard to believe that almost a week has gone by since I won the title. And what a crazy week it has been! First came that amazingly tough race in Abu Dhabi, then the enormous sense of relief after crossing the finish line, and after that the emotional moments spent with the team and my family.

“Then on Tuesday, we had the World Championship celebrations with our team partner Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, and yesterday it was the FIA Prizegiving Gala in Vienna at which I announced my retirement from Formula One. At last, I got my hands on the championship trophy. For me, a childhood dream had come true. And now here I am today, standing in front of so many Mercedes-Benz employees and thanking them for the huge support they have given me and my motorsport family over the past years.

“I will never forget you. This is a very special feeling. It’s been long and difficult road, but 2016 was my best ever Formula One season and I’ve also driven my best races this year. The whole thing was just mega.”

 

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Mercedes-AMG, Motorsport, Sindelfingen, F1, Nico Rosberg ; Mercedes-AMG, Motorsport, Sindelfingen, F1, Nico Rosberg;

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, Motorsport meets Sindelfingen, Mercedes AMG Petronas, F1, Formel 1, Nico Rosberg ; Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, Motorsport meets Sindelfingen, Mercedes AMG Petronas, F1, Formula 1, Nico Rosberg;

A dream fulfilled: Nico Rosberg ends his racing career

Signing for the Silver Arrows - November 2009

Signing for the Silver Arrows – November 2009

First Silver Arrows Test - Valencia 2010

First Silver Arrows test – Valencia 2010

 

After Friday’s bombshell, which I think did take Mr Hamilton by surprise, Nico Rosberg is the first reigning World Champion to end his career since Alain Prost in 1993.

In an emotional address prior to the 2016 FIA Prize Giving in Vienna, Austria, Nico revealed the reasons behind his decision, which was reached following his crowning achievement in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.

Nico has competed in a total of 206 Grands Prix and won 23 of them, placing him joint 12th on the all-time list alongside Nelson Piquet. He has scored 30 pole positions (8th all time) and 20 fastest laps. Last Sunday in Abu Dhabi, he became the first German driver to win a Formula One World Championship at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow.

Nico Rosberg: “Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion. Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.

“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough. I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target.

“I cannot find enough words to thank my wife Vivian; she has been incredible. She understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, and created the space for me to get full recovery between every race, looking after our daughter each night, taking over when things got tough and putting our championship first.

“When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion. On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start.

“I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life. I took my decision on Monday evening. After reflecting for a day, the first people I told were Vivian and Georg (Nolte, from Nico’s management team), followed by Toto.

“The only thing that makes this decision in any way difficult for me is because I am putting my racing family into a tough situation. But Toto understood. He knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me. My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people, the Silver Arrows.

“Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment. There is time to savour the next weeks, to reflect on the season and to enjoy every experience that comes my way. After that, I will turn the next corner in my life and see what it has in store for me…”

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Toto Wolff: “This is a brave decision by Nico and testament to the strength of his character. He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as World Champion, having achieved his childhood dream. The clarity of his judgement meant I accepted his decision straight away when he told me.

“It’s impossible to capture the essence of a person in a few short words. But Nico has a special combination of natural talent and fighting spirit that have brought him to where he is today. Throughout his career, people have thought he was on a golden path to success just because his father was a World Champion; in fact, I think in some ways that made the challenge greater – and meant he had to fight even harder with the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

“With Mercedes, Nico has been a relentless competitor, bouncing back from tough times in an inspirational way, and he earned the respect of the sport with his tenacity, his fighting spirit and his grace under pressure. Since 2010, he has poured competitive energy into our team and we have grown stronger because of it. We simply say ‘thank you’ for the incredible contribution he has made to our success, alongside two of the all-time great drivers, Michael and Lewis.

“For the team, this is an unexpected situation but also an exciting one. We are going into a new era of technical regulations and there is a free Mercedes cockpit for the seasons ahead. We will take the necessary time to evaluate our options and then find the right path for our future.”

 

First Silver Arrows Win - China 2012

First Silver Arrows win – China 2012

World Championship Win - Abu Dhabi 2016

World Championship win – Abu Dhabi 2016

 

Nico back at Brackley

Nico Rosberg Celebrates 2016 World Drivers' Championship Title at Brackley

 

Party week continued for the newly-crowned Formula One World Champion, as Nico Rosberg paid a visit to Silver Arrows HQ in Brackley to celebrate with members of the team.

After winning the title on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg first made a brief stopover in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) where employees of title partner PETRONAS welcomed him to a World Championship party in the PETRONAS Twin Towers followed on Wednesday by a trip to Wiesbaden – the town where he was born.

And that’s how the next few days looked set continue until Rosberg announced his retirement from the sport just before the FIA Prizegiving Gala in Vienna yesterday. Today he’s with Mercedes-Benz employees in Sindelfingen.

 

Nico Rosberg Celebrates 2016 World Drivers' Championship Title at Brackley

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