By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Brazilian media sources are now reporting that recently retired F1 driver Felipe Massa has signed a deal with Williams to return to the grid in 2017 for his former team.
By doing so he paves the way for his old team mate Valtteri Bottas to join Mercedes and fill the vacancy left by Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.
Massa, who announced his retirement in September at the Italian Grand Prix was apparently eager to come back and help his former team.
Williams had a desperate need for an experienced driver heading into 2017, if they were to release Bottas to Mercedes. Pairing another young driver such as Pascal Wehrlein with 18 year old rookie Lance Stroll would have seriously hurt their chances at coping with the massive regulation changes for 2017. It would also have seriously jeopardized the teams title sponsorship with Martini, who needs drivers of drinking age to promote as part of their deal.
The likable Brazilian veteran now returns to his home of the past three seasons as the undisputed team leader, where he can possibly add to his tally of 41 podiums and mentor young Stroll along the way. Whether it will be a one year deal before another retirement announcement likely depends on the strength of the car, and Massa’s willingness to continue in the sport. It will be an emotional season for Massa and it will give his fans and colleagues a second chance to say good bye.
For Bottas, all the doors are seemingly opened to Mercedes now, but the German team admits they are in tough negotiations and will not name who will partner Lewis Hamilton until at least January 3rd. Surely Toto Wolff who is part of Bottas’ management team and a firm believer in the Finn’s talents is working with Niki Lauda to ensure Mercedes gets the best deal it can.
Williams is believed to be getting a better engine supply deal from Mercedes as well as a sizable sum of cash in return for releasing Bottas. Further complicating matters is Paddy Lowe, Mercedes technical director who appears Williams bound to replace the departing Pat Symonds.