Mercedes has engaged in negotiations with Williams to release Valtteri Bottas from his contract to replace Nico Rosberg in the title-winning team, it has been reported.
The manufacturer has been actively considering its options following the revelation that newly-crowned F1 world champion Rosberg will not return to defend his title in 2017, with Bottas, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein each rumoured to have been on the candidate list.
However, with Alonso and Vettel seemingly ruled out by their contractual obligations with McLaren and Ferrari respectively, attention has turned towards Bottas, with the BBC
reporting Mercedes has made a serious offer to Williams to release the Finn from his contract.
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Though this first approach apparently been turned down, there is said to be scope for continuing negotiations that would see a massive reduction in Williams' Mercedes customer engine bill, while the company will also offer Wehrlein – who raced with Manor in 2016 - as a replacement.
Bottas is currently contracted to race with Williams for a fifth consecutive season in 2017. The Finn made his F1 debut with the Grove squad in 2013 and has accumulated nine podiums over four years, with a best finish of fourth overall in 2014, and has enjoys a reputation for his feedback, speed and reliability.
Bottas' hopes of a Mercedes move are strengthened by Wolff's involvement as one of his managers and the potential leverage that could be used through the manufacturer's technical relationship with Williams.
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However, it is understood Williams is very reluctant to let the 27 year-old go as he is considered fundamental to the team's short-term progress in the wake of Felipe Massa's retirement and the arrival of inexperienced rookie Lance Stroll. Title sponsor Martini may also react to the prospect of having 18 year-old Stroll and 22 year-old Wehrlein forming Williams' line-up.
The speculation comes amid talk that Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe is set for a move in the other direction following a sizeable bid by Williams to lure him back to the team with which he made his F1 debut in 1987.
The Briton is known to being courted by several teams but is understood to have already sealed a deal that would see him switch, with ex-Ferrari man James Allison expected to join Mercedes in his place.
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