February 26, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Bottas says there are no “burnt bridges” with Mercedes over Hamilton's replacement

Bottas says there are no “burnt bridges” with Mercedes over Hamilton's replacement

Hamilton's shock decision to leave Mercedes has revitalized the driver market ahead of 2025, at a time when it appeared to be faltering with Ferrari and McLaren moving to link Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris to long-term deals.

Sauber's Bottas led Mercedes from 2017 to 2021 as Hamilton's team-mate, but the team has decided to replace the Finn with George Russell from the 2022 season.

Hamilton's impending move means Mercedes suddenly needs a replacement to race alongside Russell next season, as its options are limited by the timing of Hamilton's decision and those new contracts that will be issued to coveted drivers at other teams.

Bottas is entering what he calls a “contract year” with Sauber, ahead of its takeover by Audi in 2026.

The Finn stopped short of expressing his stated desire to return to Mercedes given his chance to secure a long-term future as part of what he called the Sauber/Audi “project”, but said that “as far as I know, nothing has been burned” about a potential return.

“It's not a lie, I was in Brackley the day before actually,” Bottas said, referring to an Instagram story he posted last week before the announcement of Hamilton's move to Ferrari, which went viral among Formula 1 fans given the location in question near the Mercedes base.

“Not at the Mercedes factory, but I was there doing some other things. No, we haven't spoken on the phone yet with Toto. [Wolff, Mercedes team boss].

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo Formula 1 Team

Photography: Jake Grant / Motorsport pictures

“And if I were to come back, yes… Well, obviously my biggest priority and commitment is the Audi project, which is my goal.

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“But if it doesn't happen, there's no team I won't go to [to] maybe. I know my priorities and I have my list.”

When asked to give his reaction to the Hamilton/Ferrari news during the 2024 Sauber launch event at London's historic Guildhall on Monday, the Finn said he was “surprised” by the development because he “never thought it could happen.”

“But I think it's good for him – it's a big opportunity, it's a big step. He obviously made the decision himself.”

“[I’m] Happy for him and certainly now this will escalate some movement in the market for 2025. So, right now, it is very difficult to predict how things will go.

“I never thought it would happen. And so did the timing of it. But I'm happy for him because it's good for him.”

“I think it's a big challenge. I'm sure it's a big motivation for him to bring Ferrari to the top.

“So, it's great and it will definitely create some movement for the future, which is good for the whole sport and for some drivers for sure.”

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