Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement following his maiden Drivers’ Championship crown has sent Mercedes scrambling for his replacement ahead of the 2017 season. The German made the decision to call time on his career following his triumph, clinching the title by finishing second behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton. However, the 31-year-old passed up further chances to add to his collection of crowns in order to spend time with his young family.
Mercedes have won the Constructors Championship for the past three years on the bounce, and due to the success of Hamilton and Rosberg they will have no shortage of suitors to replace the German. However, it is vital that the team find the right complement for their number one driver Hamilton, with Toto Wolff facing a huge decision over the long-term future of his outfit.
Hamilton’s fine form towards the end of the campaign proves that he remains the class of the sport, with only horrendous luck with his car throughout the season costing him a third Drivers’ Championship crown. The Brit is backed in the latest bet365 F1 betting odds at 11/10 to win the title for the fourth time of his career.
The only thing that could stand in Hamilton’s way is the talent of his new team-mate given Rosberg’s success last season. Sebastian Vettel has been linked with a move, which could shake up the battle at the top completely and perhaps be even more competitive that the Brit and German’s duels over the past three seasons.
A move for the four-time champion would lock down Mercedes’ dominance at the top in the Constructors Championship, adding arguably the second-best driver on the circuit to their team, while weakening their greatest rivals Ferrari. Whether Wolff would be able to secure a deal for the 29-year-old would be another matter, with still another year left to run on Vettel’s contract.
The likeliest partner for Hamilton next season could be Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. Wolff has a previous relationship with the Finn, having signed him as a test driver when he was with Williams back in 2010. The 27-year-old has developed to become one of the most solid competitors on the circuit, although he has yet to win a Grand Prix in his five-year career.
A move for the four-time champion would lock down Mercedes’ dominance at the top in the Constructors Championship, adding arguably the second-best driver on the circuit to their team, while weakening their greatest rivals Ferrari.
Bottas recorded the best season of his career in 2014, finishing fourth overall with 185 points. He displayed a strong level of consistency, placing on the podium five times over the course of the campaign, including back-to-back second-place finishes at the German and British GPs.
The Finn took a step backwards in the 2015 season, finishing in fifth overall, notching just two podium places in his 19 races. Again, his ability to string series of solid performances together was highlighted throughout the campaign, helping him accumulate points with regularity over the course of the season.
Troubles with his Williams car saw a regression in Bottas’ form last season, but he still managed to hold his composure with an eighth overall finish, while claiming third place in the Canadian Grand Prix. However, time may have run his course with his current team and the level of consistency he displayed in 2014 and 2015 would appeal to Mercedes, providing a perfect foil for Hamilton.
At the age of 27 he will only likely improve and has the ability to stick around for the long term unlike a move for veteran Fernando Alonso. As a result, a Mercedes deal for Bottas would be a wise option for both parties to complete in the near future.