Claire Williams says the team has no concerns on Felipe Massa's ability or competitive edge as he prepares to make a dramatic turnaround on his decision to retire from F1 and re-join Williams for 2017.
The Brazilian driver made an emotional goodbye to the sport over the final races in 2016 after confirming his retirement from F1, with rookie Lance Stroll joining alongside Valtteri Bottas.
However, after Nico Rosberg's shock retirement just days after clinching the F1 world title it left a vacant race seat at Mercedes which is set to be filled by Bottas – paving the way for Massa to return to Williams for 2017.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams says she's not worried about Massa returning without a competitive edge despite being ready to leave F1 last year.
“Felipe's heart has always been in our sport,” Williams told Sky Sports F1
. “Everyone said that about him when he joined us, 'surely his time in F1 is over, he petered out at the end of his years at Ferrari', but he came to Williams and it seemed to be a great culture for him and he was a new driver.
“I don't think he necessarily wanted to leave the sport and he did say he wanted to continue racing. These guys have been racing since they were six years old and it is in their DNA, that is what they do.
“If Felipe was to come back I don't believe there would be any lack of competitive spirit within him. We also wouldn't bring a driver who we had any concerns over his ability to do the job for us.”
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Massa is expected to be confirmed as Stroll's new team-mate at Williams after Bottas switches to Mercedes with both contracts in the final negotiation stages. Official announcements of both deals are expected this week.
Williams immediately sought the return of Massa after Mercedes made its interest in Bottas clear as Rosberg's replacement as it needs an over-25 driver due to sponsor contract details with Martini.
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