By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Dashing the Christmas wishes of many drivers, Mercedes has announced that it will not name a successor to Nico Rosberg’s vacated seat till 2017.
After newly crowned Rosberg announced his retirement, Mercedes has been in desperate straits to name his replacement ahead of the largest technical changes the sport has seen in 20 years.
Much to their chagrin, top drivers Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are under ironclad contracts with McLaren-Honda and Ferrari. Recently retired veterans like Jenson Button and Felipe Massa are not viable options either.
Many recent F1 drivers and numerous long shot hopefuls have reached out to the team, but few offers have been taken seriously.
Front runner for the seat Williams lead driver Valtteri Bottas is still the most likely candidate, but his team turned down Mercedes initial offer to buyout his contract as they do not want to run an all new driver lineup and need Bottas’ feedback for the new 2017 cars.
Mercedes Reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein may luck into the seat, but could do so with a chip on his shoulder as Mercedes have strongly indicated they want a more experienced driver to partner Lewis Hamilton next season.
The announcement temporarily halts the F1 silly season as other teams with seats up for grabs are keen to see what Mercedes does first. It is likely Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda are focused on Bottas and will use the remainder of the year to try and coax Claire Williams into letting her star driver go. Once Mercedes makes a move, all the other pieces should fall into place quickly.
They will need to, as pre-season testing begins in Barcelona in only 74 days.