Williams: Nico quitting meant six hectic weeks for us

Williams F1 Factory, Grove, Oxfordshire. Thursday 03 November 2016. Lance Stroll, Claire Williams and Valtteri Bottas. Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams ref: Digital Image _X4I0305

When Nico Rosberg announced his retirement a mere five days after clinching his first Formula 1 World Championship title, the move triggered a period of frantic and intense negotiations for the Williams team as Mercedes sought Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn’s release was by no means simple.

Claire Williams explained to Speed Week, “Not long after soon after Nico’s decision, I had Toto ringing me up on the phone. By then we already had agreements with Valtteri and Lance Stroll. Everything was sorted, everything was clear.”

Williams was referring to the fact that the team had announced Stroll and Bottas as their drivers in early November, a month before Rosberg decided to quit.

“But the new scenario after Nico’s decision put us all in a difficult position. When it comes to future world champions, the name Bottas has been mentioned regularly in recent years. I am anxious to see how he goes.”

“Valtteri has grown close to our hearts over the years – I just wish we could have given him a better car. But I’m happy he will get that chance at Mercedes.”

However releasing Bottas had a number of hurdles and contractual obligations that needed to be overcome, Williams explained, “The problem we had was at the time most of the drivers available for Formula 1 were not 25. Thus it meant six hectic weeks for us.”

“It was not boring! But in reality this is always the case after the season, because preparations for the new season are already well underway. But this time around, everything was a bit different,” added Williams.

As we reported here>>> during the limbo period before Mercedes confirmed Bottas, the team’s title sponsor – Martini – required a driver over the age of 25 to be in the team. As by law, in certain countries, anyone under that age cannot be involved in promoting liquor products.

There was reportedly also a clause in the contract with Stroll whereby Williams were obliged to have an experienced driver in the team to mentor the Canadian teenager during his rookie season.

Thus Felipe Massa was the go-to-guy who was very keen to extend his career for at l;east another year.

Mercedes had to shell out a fair chunk of money to fund Bottas’ transfer, sweeten the deal for Williams and also pay for Massa’s ‘comeback’.

But in the end, when the maths was done, the whole deal cost Mercedes less than if Rosberg had not retired and instead had continued with the team to defend his title.