F1's Game of Thrones ends as Valtteri Bottas joins Mercedes, Felipe Massa returns from retirement

Formula 1’s very own Game of Thrones finally has a victor – Mercedes has confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will move from Williams and fill the racing seat vacated by Nico Rosberg.

The sport’s worst kept secret is finally out in the open with this confirmation. In perfect symmetry, Mercedes will now have #44 and #77 on their cars next season. Funnily enough, a lot of drivers are now claiming that they ‘didn’t even think of applying’ for the vacant racing seat. Come on guys, who are we kidding?

 F1s Game of Thrones ends as Valtteri Bottas joins Mercedes, Felipe Massa returns from retirement

File photo of Valtteri Bottas. Reuters

What does Hamilton-Bottas mean for Mercedes?

Even as we were rooting for an exciting replacement to Rosberg (read: Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, even Daniel Ricciardo) it will be exciting to see how the Lewis Hamilton-Valtteri Bottas pairing pans out. After three seasons of Rosberg vs Hamilton, this is a welcome change.

Part of the intrigue comes thanks to Bottas himself, who is a bit of an unknown quantity. There’s no doubt that Bottas is quick, but is he quick enough to beat Hamilton? How will he deal with Hamilton’s mind games, and how far can he push the envelope?

If Bottas can indeed hold his own against Hamilton (especially a Hamilton who desperately wants to regain his lost crown), the paddock will surely sit up and notice. Let’s not forget that this is Bottas’ best chance ever to not just win races, but maybe even the World Championship.

We can only hope that the Finnish Bottas goes the Kimi Raikkonen and Mika Hakkinen way and NOT the Heikki Kovalainen way. In fact, Hakkinen (who managed Bottas) believes that Bottas can beat Hamilton in equal cars.

As a result of Bottas’ move to Mercedes, Toto Wolff is no longer part of his driver management team. At the same time, Bottas will remain Wolff’s protégé (even if not officially), which may provide an interesting angle to the relationship with Hamilton.

If the pressure of replacing the current World Champion wasn’t enough, Bottas only has a one-year contact by Mercedes. This makes it imperative for him to start performing and delivering results immediately. There is no doubt that Mercedes will be quick to drop him in 2018 if his performance is below expectations, as the driver market will open up.

Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg will keep himself occupied in his retirement days an ambassador for Mercedes, alongside Hamilton. This is a role that Hamilton has played since he joined the team – but it seems like Rosberg had to win a World Championship and then retire just to get noticed enough for this role!

Massa returns from the ‘shortest ever retirement’
As expected, Bottas moving to Mercedes means that Williams has recalled Felipe Massa; tthe shortest ever World Champion had the shortest ever retirement too! It is likely that Williams brought back Massa thanks to a clause in Lance Stroll’s contract, which specifies that he should race alongside an experienced teammate who he can learn from. In case you were wondering, the age gap between Massa and Stroll is 17 years and 187 days!

Further, having an older driver could be a sponsor obligation to Martini – there would be age restrictions on using young drivers due to the association with alcohol. Whatever the reason, we are delighted – one more season with Massa is definitely good news. For starters, we’d love for him to have a ‘last-last’ Brazilian Grand Prix where he actually gets to finish the race.

Massa joins an illustrious list of F1 race winners who have retired and then returned to racing – a list that includes seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. While Schumacher’s comeback with Mercedes yielded only one podium, we hope Massa has a more successful stint.

Pascal Wehrlein gets snubbed again
The final piece in this puzzle is Pascal Wehrlein. Unfortunately, he did not get the big jump from Manor to Mercedes, and instead has to be content with a move to Sauber. Wehrlein has been snubbed by two big teams (Force India and Mercedes) for this season – and he’s surely not feeling great about it. Also strange that the Mercedes Junior Driver will be driving a car with Ferrari engines. That said, Sauber has given us some great racing talent in the past (Raikkonen and Massa) so it may just be the right team for Wehrlein to grow and nurture his talent.

Updated Date: Jan 18, 2017 13:31:47 IST