Valtteri Bottas is set to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari for the 2016 Formula 1 season according to a report in the Italian press.
Corriere dello Sport reported on Friday that Ferrari has struck an agreement with Williams to bring Bottas to Maranello next year despite the Finn having eighteen months remaining on his contract.
Bottas first joined Williams in a reserve role in 2012 after winning the GP3 title on a five-year deal, due to expire at the end of 2016.
With a settlement being agreed for his release, Ferrari is set to replace Kimi Raikkonen and partner Bottas with Sebastian Vettel for next season.
Ferrari has an option on Raikkonen’s services for 2016 that must be activated before the end of July according to the report, but after an underwhelming second stint at Maranello, it appears that the 2007 world champion is bound for the exit.
The report claims that this deal “sets in motion a domino effect involving at least four teams”, naming Felipe Nasr as a possible replacement for Bottas at Williams. Nasr spent the 2014 season in a reserve role with the British team before joining Sauber in 2015.
However, Williams’ current reserve is Alex Lynn, who is another possible replacement for Bottas. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg has also been linked with a move back to the team that he drove for in 2010, but a number of drivers are known to be vying for the seat.
That said, Finnish journalist Oskari Saari claims that Bottas’ departure from Williams “is not a done deal”.
Bottas’ manager, Didier Coton, chipped in with this comment on Twitter.
Any possible move would have major ramifications for the 2016 driver market, though. It would indeed set in place a domino effect that could also involve Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean, who are both without a firm deal for next season.
It would also most probably mark the end of Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 career. The Finn has suggested in the past that he would quit the sport when he left Ferrari, and it is unlikely that he would be willing to race for a team further down the grid.
Factor in the arrival of Haas F1 Team and two more seats on the grid, and the stage is set for F1’s ‘silly season’ to enter full swing next weekend in Hungary.