The Silly Season continues to gather momentum amid reports in Corriere dello Sport claiming that Williams has agreed a €12 million buyout by Ferrari of Valtteri Bottas’ 2016 contract ‘option’.
And the Rome-based daily said the man slotting into Bottas’ Williams seat next year will be the British team’s former reserve driver, Felipe Nasr.
Corriere dello Sport predicted Bottas’ move, tipped to be announced officially in early August once the 2016 option on Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari deal runs out, will trigger a “domino effect” on the driver market involving “at least four teams”.
Brazilian Nasr, who stepped up from the Williams reserve seat in 2014 to make his grand prix debut with Sauber this year, carries the significant sponsorship of Banco do Brasil.
Earlier this week, the 22-year-old had been quoted by Brazil’s UOL Esporte as playing down the suggestions of a return to Williams for 2016, “For my part I have not heard anything yet. Of course there are always rumours…”
“But I’m still committed to Sauber, we have a plan to improve the car in 2016, we have a lot of work going on and have hired a new (technical) boss,” Nasr, referring to Mark Smith, added.
But last month, Nasr admitted his frustration with Sauber’s stalled car development in 2015, reportedly calling a recurring brake problem “unacceptable”.
When asked by Globo about a potential return to Williams, he answered: “I think it’s too early to talk about it. I am committed to Sauber.”
But Nasr continued: “I had a great year with them in 2014 so I see the door open. Who knows if in the future an opportunity there may arise.”
Nasr has been one of the standout rookies in a year where the likes of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz are also enjoying impressive debut seasons, but are both within the Toro Rosso team.
But Nasr has easily out performed more experienced Marcus Ericsson in the other Sauber, the Brazilian scoring 16 points to date compared to six by his teammate.
F1 teams are at the moment spoilt for choice when it comes to available drivers and Williams could also consider the likes of:
- Nico Hulkenberg who brings speed and experience but not the much needed cash injection;
- Kevin Magnussen or Stoffel Vandoorne who may find funding from McLaren to get them on the grid in 2016;
- Jenson Button has hinted recently that he could move and a swansong at Williams would be poetic as that is where he began his F1 career.
- Daniel Ricciardo of whom respected F1 journo Joe Saward wrote: “His contractual status is not entirely clear as he’s not keen on giving detailed answers, so it is safe to assume he’s not completely locked in [at Red Bull] for 2016.”
The F1 Silly Season is now in top gear as the circus heads to Hungary next week where it will be a hot topic throughout the weekend.