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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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”