Motors Motors

Hamilton backs new team-mate Bottas

Nico Rosberg, middle, retired after winning the world title for the first time last season. PHOTO/BBC.

LONDON, United Kingdom, Jan 19 – Lewis Hamilton has backed Mercedes replacing Nico Rosberg with Valtteri Bottas, says team boss Toto Wolff.

Mercedes signed the Finn this week after agreeing a deal to buy him out of his Williams contract to replace Rosberg, who retired after winning last year’s world title.

Wolff said: “Lewis said he thought Valtteri was a nice guy.

“One of the guys he actually got along with well in Formula 1 and he felt he was a good option.”

Wolff, who was talking to Finnish commentator Oskari Saari for a podcast, said he believed there might be less tension between Hamilton and the 27-year-old Finn than there was between the triple world champion and Rosberg.

“I think that works well,” he added. “It was OK already between Nico and Lewis, but there was the luggage of the past… Now it is a completely new relationship and there is no animosity.

“There will be moments where it is going to be difficult, but I think that how the personalities are for the team it’s going to be a good situation and one that is maybe a bit easier to handle than the past. But I could be wrong.”

BBC Sport revealed on Monday that Bottas had signed a one-year contract, with options to extend it into subsequent seasons.

Wolff said that was because a number of leading drivers’ contracts were up for renewal at the end of the 2017 season – including multiple world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and McLaren – and Mercedes wanted to keep their options open.

“We wouldn’t have chosen Valtteri if we thought that he was not good enough to continue with the team,” said Wolff.

“But, as a matter of fact, the market is very dynamic at the moment. Next year options open – young drivers, Sebastian, Fernando, Valtteri, many of them. So it is about understanding that and Valtteri does.

“Equally we have great faith and confidence in him that he can stay with us for a long time, but now we need to see how the season goes.”