Mercedes are searching for a new driver following Nico Rosberg’s unexpected decision to retire five days after he won his first F1 title.
Toto Wolff admitted that the British-based team, who won their third straight constructors’ championship in 2016, were completely surprised by the 31-year-old’s announcement.
When asked if he knew about it beforehand, the Mercedes boss told Motorsport.com: “Not at all. I had a bit of a feeling that I couldn’t quite judge when we travelled that there was something going on.
“It took me completely by surprise and saw some board members and Niki [Lauda], and they were equally surprised. It is something we would never have imagined, but in the same way, it really causes admiration within me.”
It means Lewis Hamilton needs a new teammate ahead of the 2017 season. Whoever joins the Brit will have to work with a fiercely competitive driver who is aching after missing out on his fourth championship.
MERCEDES' IDEAL REPLACEMENT
According to BBC Sport, Mercedes have identified Williams driver Valterri Bottas as their first choice to replace Rosberg.
Wolff reportedly sees the Finn as a “close like-for-like replacement” for Rosberg. “[Bottas is] quick, a reliable and consistent points scorer, and relatively easy to manage alongside the more mercurial Hamilton,” the BBC’s report adds.
MERCEDES HAVE SENT AN OFFER TO WILLIAMS
Williams have already rejected an initial offer to release the 27-year-old from his 2017 contract, but Mercedes are expected to launch another move in the coming days.
Williams, who finished fifth in the 2016 constructor standings, said goodbye to Felipe Massa at the end of last season, the Brazilian retiring from Formula One.
It means their drivers heading into 2017 are Bottas and Canadian rookie Lance Stroll, 18.
You can see why Williams are desperate to keep hold of Bottas, but they might be helpless to prevent him joining Hamilton at Mercedes.
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