motorsport

Who Will Replace Rosberg at Mercedes?

January 10, 2017

- Grant Whittington

While the sudden retirement of Mercedes driver and current world champion Nico Rosberg may have sent shockwaves through the world of Formula One, in retrospect we should probably not be so surprised. After all, it took all of Rosberg’s mental strength and driving ability to withhold the challenge of the uniquely gifted Lewis Hamilton last season, and it is unlikely that he would be able to maintain such a level in the future.

Rosberg’s retirement has left Mercedes in the market for a replacement driver, with a number of names having been suggested during the festive period.  After weeks of speculation, however, recent reports suggest that Williams driver Valtteri Bottas is set to be named as Hamilton’s new teammate after the Finn made a secret visit to the Mercedes factory in the New Year.

How has the Signing of Bottas Come About?

Initially, Mercedes’ junior driver Pascal Wehrlein had been the favourite to replace Rosberg, with the youngest DTM champion in history known to be a firm favourite of the car brand’s motor sport boss Toto Wolff. He is now poised to join the Sauber team, however, making the signing of the 27-year old Bottas even more likely and increasingly urgent too.

Mercedes appear to have selected experience over potential with the signing of Bottas, who has impressed during his four-year stint with Williams. While he may have only finished eighth in last season’s drivers championship, he performed far more consistently than his teammate Felipe Massa and coped well with an underperforming car. He also achieved a career-high finish of fourth in the drivers title as recently as 2014, so can boast considerable pedigree and consistency at the very highest level.

Despite this, many fans appear to be underwhelmed at the signing of the Finn. After all, the presence of two talented and championship-class drivers propelled a dominant Mercedes team to new heights last season, while also triggering one of the closest title races in recent history. Even allowing for Bottas’ experience and quality, he is not in the same class as Rosberg and would appear to lack the pedigree to challenge a hungry and well-rested Hamilton.

The Bottom Line: What Bottas’ Signing Could Mean for Mercedes and F1

This may well be a tactical decision on behalf of Mercedes, who may want placate an increasingly restless Hamilton by establishing him as the team’s Omni-potent driver. Bottas can therefore serve as an accomplished and compliant understudy, giving the team enough points to win the constructors championship without the need for the type of internal disputes and conflict that plagued them last season.

While this will be good news for the early 2017 drivers championship favourite Hamilton and most probably Mercedes, it is unlikely to satisfy fans or lead to a competitive drivers championship. This is unless another team (such as Red Bull) can bridge the gap the exists between Mercedes and their rival constructors and propel their own drivers to more consistent success over the course of the season.

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