Williams Formula 1 technical chief Pat Symonds believes that keeping Valtteri Bottas is “crucial” to the team’s future success amid speculation that the Finn could move to Mercedes for 2017.
Following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire from racing after winning his maiden F1 title at the end of November, Mercedes is currently in the process of signing a replacement for next season.
BBC Sport reported earlier this week that Williams had rejected an advance from Mercedes for Bottas, with the team apparently uneasy about fielding two young drivers in 2017 after being offered Pascal Wehrlein as a replacement.
Bottas is currently set to partner 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll at Williams next year, with Symonds believing that an experienced driver who knows the team will be key to its success.
“We will have Lance Stroll on his debut, with no F1 experience, so to hold on to Bottas will be crucial for our success,” Symonds told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“People often underestimate the importance of continuity. Despite all the instruments we have, the driver is still the final link between the engineers and the data to be interpreted.
“You can replace one of them, but you need the other as a milestone, especially in a season of rule changes as 2017 will be.
“To lose him would have heavy consequences on the team.”
Bottas made his F1 debut with Williams back in 2013, and finished a career-high of fourth in the drivers’ championship during his sophomore season.
The Finn was thought to be in contention for a Ferrari seat in 2016, only for the Italian marque to stick with Kimi Raikkonen for another year.
Bottas was subject to interest from Renault for the 2017 season amid its ongoing rebuild, but he opted to remain with Williams, as confirmed by the team at the beginning of November.