Alfa Romeo announce multi-year deal for Valtteri Bottas from 2022 to pave the way for Mercedes to confirm George Russell as Lewis Hamilton’s new team-mate… despite world champion being upset by the decision
- Valtteri Bottas has been confirmed as a driver for Alfa Romeo Racing from 2022
- The Finn will depart Mercedes as they prepare to sign up George Russell next
- Lewis Hamilton will be part of an all-British team pairing from the 2022 season
Valtteri Bottas has signed a multi-year deal to join Alfa Romeo from next season, paving the way for 23-year-old George Russell to partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
Bottas, 32, is a nine-time Grand Prix winner but as Sportsmail revealed on Thursday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has decided to draft in Russell to replace Bottas from 2022.
With Kimi Raikkonen retiring, the seat opened up at Alfa Romeo and ensures Bottas continues to play a part among the 20 cars on the grid.
Valtteri Bottas will leave Mercedes at the end of the season to sign for Alfa Romeo Racing
Mercedes are now set to hand the hottest seat in motor racing to George Russell in 2022
Speaking after Monday’s announcement, Bottas said: ‘I am relishing the opportunity to help lead the team forward up the grid, especially with the new regulations in 2022 giving the team a chance to make a leap in performance.
‘I’m grateful for the trust the team has put in me and I cannot wait to repay their faith: I’m as hungry as ever to race for results and, when the time comes, for wins.’
Bottas, who joined Mercedes in 2017, added: ‘I am proud of what I have achieved in Brackley and I am fully focused on finishing the job as we fight for another world championship, but I am also looking forward to the new challenges that await me next year.
‘When I look back on my time with Mercedes, I want to be able to say that I squeezed every drop out of this opportunity and left nothing on the table; and I want to make sure that we finish our time together as champions.
‘It has been a privilege and a great sporting challenge to work with Lewis, and the harmony in our relationship played a big part in the constructors’ championships we won as team-mates. Later this year, the time will come to say goodbye – that’s not for now, but I would like to thank Toto and the team for the respect in how we took the decision together.’
Bottas is currently third in the championship drivers’ standings with 123 points, a total of 98.5 points behind team-mate Hamilton, who is second.
Bottas has been at Mercedes since 2017 and said he wants to go out on a high this season
The driver line-up change reveals that Wolff is preparing for life after Hamilton, who turns 37 in January and was urging his boss to stick with the usually compliant Bottas.
In a statement to Mercedes, Wolff said: ‘This hasn’t been an easy process or a straightforward decision for us. Valtteri has done a fantastic job over the past five seasons and he has made an essential contribution to our success and to our growth.
‘Together with Lewis, he has built a benchmark partnership between two team-mates in the sport, and that has been a valuable weapon in our championship battles and pushed us to achieve unprecedented success.
‘He would absolutely have deserved to stay with the team, and I am pleased that he has been able to choose an exciting challenge with Alfa next year to continue his career at the top level of the sport; when the time comes, he will leave us with huge goodwill from every single member of the team, and he will forever be part of the Mercedes family.’
As revealed by Sportsmail last week, a well-placed source said: ‘Toto has made up his mind to bring in George. Lewis has been told and he’s not happy.
‘He wanted Valtteri as a team-mate because he is compliant and not quite quick enough to trouble him, but that’s not what is happening.
‘You could say, as far as Lewis is concerned, it’s gone down like a lead balloon.’
Russell (left) has impressed in the last year and finished on the podium at the Belgian GP
Speaking on Sky Sports over the weekend at the Dutch Grand Prix, Mercedes’ 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg repeated a rumour that Netflix have filmed Russell signing his new deal.
When asked about Russell’s impending move in Holland, a diplomatic Hamilton said: ‘Our relationship will be good. George is an incredibly talented driver.
‘I would say the only highlight from last week’s (two-lap) race in Belgium was his amazing qualifying lap.
‘But it is not like I have anything to prove. I raced against some incredible drivers as team-mates, including Fernando Alonso in my rookie year. And if it does turn out I have got a new team-mate, I am in a different place in my life. I am excited to see the youngsters coming through. I don’t want to lose but I do want to see the progression of the sport because I am a fan.
‘You have heard me talk about Lando Norris and it is encouraging. I see a lot of myself in the younger generation. They’re fierce. The sport is relying on them.
‘There will be things George and I can learn from one another. It is important respect is always there and communication is at the core of that. We have got amazing morale at the team.’
Russell, 23, is set to form an all-British partnership at Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton
Bottas made his debut in F1 in 2013 as a Williams driver, like Russell, and was viewed as one of the brightest talents in the sport.
He was promoted to Mercedes in 2017 to partner Hamilton and he went on to secure 54 podiums for the Brackley team – playing a key role in multiple constructors’ championship wins.
The Finn is well-liked by Hamilton and while he was rarely a threat to his supremacy, Bottas did finish as world championship runner-up in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal of Alfa Romeo Racing said: ‘It is a pleasure to welcome Valtteri to the team and we are looking forward to our journey together.
‘With him, we bring a strong team player with experience at the sharp end of the grid.’
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