AMSTERDAM — Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas is leaving Mercedes at the end of the season and replacing the retiring Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo team said Monday that Bottas had signed a multiyear deal, paving the way for George Russell to replace Bottas at Mercedes.
For Bottas, it is a sad end to a Mercedes career that never really took off after he replaced Nico Rosberg (who retired after winning the 2016 series championship).
Although he won four races into his Mercedes career with victory at the Russian GP, the Finnish driver never mounted a serious title challenge the way Rosberg did in 2014 and 2016.
Bottas, 32, claimed the most recent of his nine victories at the Russian GP in September last year.
Welcome to Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, VB77! 👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/ZW9VoRRJif
— Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN (@alfaromeoracing) September 6, 2021
After winning twice last year and three times in 2019, he has gone 20 races without a victory and is on track for his first winless season since 2018 when he finished fifth in the points standings.
Bottas is third overall this year but nearly 100 points behind teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after 13 races.
He now will relaunch his career at a team where he will be under much less pressure, taking a spot that opened with the impending retirement of Raikkonen.
“A new chapter in my racing career is opening,” Bottas said. “I am relishing the opportunity to help lead the team forward up the grid, especially with the new regulations in 2022 giving the team a chance to make a leap in performance.”
I’m immensely proud to have worked alongside @ValtteriBottas for the last 5 yrs. We’ve been part of a team that has delivered 4 Constructors’ Championships and we’ve motivated one another to keep pushing through the ups & downs. Thank you VB🙏🏾 let’s finish strong. pic.twitter.com/4YRJAhCzSN
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 6, 2021
Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur knows Bottas well, having worked with him in the F3 and GP3 categories.
“The multiyear deal bringing him to us gives both Valtteri and the team the stability we need to build,” Vasseur said. “We are excited for what the future holds in store.”
Russell has excelled for Williams in a much slower car, showing all his ability with a stunning second place in qualifying at the rain-drenched Belgian GP two races ago. He finished second in that shortened race.
Before that race, Russell had been informed he had a seat at Mercedes in 2022, though he could not yet say so.
He has driven once before for Mercedes.
Russell replaced Hamilton at the Sakhir GP last December when the British driver had COVID-19 and qualified an impressive second behind Bottas despite having little time to adjust to the car.