Williams open to letting Valtteri Bottas move to Mercedes F1 for 2017

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Williams is open to letting Valtteri Bottas move to Mercedes for the 2017 Formula 1 season, so long as it can find a “credible, experienced” driver to replace him.

Mercedes has one free seat for the 2017 season following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire from racing just five days after winning his maiden F1 World Championship.

Reports earlier this week suggested that Williams had rejected an initial approach from Mercedes for Bottas, knocking back an offer that included a discount on engines and junior driver Pascal Wehrlein’s services for 2017.

Williams was apparently uneasy about partnering sophomore Wehrlein, 22, with rookie driver Lance Stroll, 18, for next season at a time when development will be key under revised technical regulations.

Speaking to BBC Sport, deputy team principal Claire Williams said that she would be open to letting Bottas leave, but only if an experienced driver could be signed in his place.

“I’m delighted to see that a team like Mercedes lists Valtteri as a potential replacement for Nico,” Williams said.

“We have always known Valtteri is one of the sport’s key talents and are proud that the championship leaders recognize this.

“However, Williams has its own ambitions and we must always ensure we give our team the best opportunity to move forward. Any changes would only be made if Williams remains in a strong position to compete and develop in 2017.

“If we did allow Valtteri to leave, we would only do this if an experienced, credible alternative was available, such as someone like Felipe Massa, for example.

“Whatever we decide, it must be in the best interests of this team.”

Massa announced his retirement from F1 in September, making his 250th and final start for Williams in Abu Dhabi as his 14-year career came to an end.

However, a report from French newspaper L’Equipe published this morning said that the team was in “advanced” talks with Massa about a possible comeback in 2017 should Bottas leave for Mercedes.

Much like Mercedes is now, Williams would find itself scrambling for a new driver should a seat become free, with the majority of the grid already locked into contracts for next year.

Mercedes confirmed earlier today that it would make no announcement regarding its driver line-up until after the new year.