Valtteri Bottas will leave Mercedes at the end of the current Formula One season and join Alfa Romeo on a “multi-year deal” the team said Monday.
Bottas’ departure from world champions Mercedes was widely expected and he is likely to be replaced by Britain’s George Russell, currently of Williams, alongside record title-holder Lewis Hamilton.
“A new chapter in my racing career is opening,” the 32-year-old Finn Bottas said on the Alfa Romeo homepage.
“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 has won nine grands prix with Mercedes, his team since he replaced Nico Rosberg alongside Hamilton in 2017.
But while a solid understudy to Hamilton, Bottas rarely looked capable of challenging for a world title and Russell, 23, has impressed both in a limited Williams car and while deputizing for Hamilton when he had the coronavirus at the end of last season.
Hamilton said on Twitter he was “immensely proud to have worked alongside Valtteri Bottas” for the last five years. “We’ve been part of a team that has delivered 4 Constructors’ Championships and we’ve motivated one another to keep pushing through the ups & downs.
“Your speed and resiliance has been impressive but where you truly stand out to me is the human being you are and gentleman. You are greater than you know and I know there’s a bright future for you.”
Britain’s PA agency reported Russell could be announced as a Mercedes driver for 2022 as early as Tuesday.
“I am so proud of everything we have achieved together in my time with Mercedes – and it is not over yet, because we have our biggest challenge so far to try and claim our eighth constructors’ title,” said Bottas
“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.”
Bottas helped Mercedes to constructors’ titles in each season with the team so far and ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, they lead the standings by 12 points from Red Bull.
“This hasn’t been an easy process or a straightforward decision for us,” said Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff.
“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.”
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen will retire at the end of 2021 to make way for Bottas but other current driver Antonio Giovinazzi has not yet confirmed his spot for next season.
“It is a pleasure to welcome Valtteri to the team and we are looking forward to our journey together,” said Alfa Romeo principal Fred Vasseur.
“Valtteri has been an integral part of a team that rewrote the history books and he has four constructors’ world titles to his name: he is the right driver to help Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN make a step forward towards the front of the grid.”