The saga regarding who will replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes will drag into the new year as no announcement is expected before 3 January according to the team spokesperson, who added that the final decision may be made even later in the month, but it is expected to happen before the first test in Barcelona.
Valtteri Bottas is the driver Mercedes want to team up with Lewis Hamilton, but the Finn is integral to Williams’ 2017 plans, needing his experience to lead the team and their rookie driver Lance Stroll.
Williams have reportedly already turned down a €10-million bid for Bottas and a stumbling block appears to be that an experienced driver – namely Bottas – is part of a big bucks deal between the Grove team and billionaire Lawrence Stroll who is bankrolling his son’s Formula 1 adventure.
However Williams and Mercedes have very close ties which go beyond engine supplier and customer, as the Silver Arrows chief Wolff was executive director of the Williams F1 until 2013, selling his 15% shares in the team a year later.
He is also co-owner of a sports management company with Mika Häkkinen, with Bottas as one of their charges.
Thus it is no surprise that reports are emerging claiming that Felipe Massa has been contacted by Williams to sound out his availability for 2017, despite the Brazilian retiring after the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Williams would probably want more than €10-million discount on their engines and if a middle ground can be agreed a deal to release Bottas could be reached, provided the Stroll clan can be pacified.
Eleven times grand prix winner Massa in the garage next to the 18 year old in 2017 to mentor and nurture him would probably be better value than Bottas who has never visited the top step of an F1 podium.
Should all this fail then the last resort for Mercedes is promoting their own home grown Pascal Wehrlein to the most coveted seat in Formula 1.
But for now we have to wait and see… watch this space!