Only five days after winning the 2016 Driver Championship, Nico Rosberg has effectively retired from Formula 1 racing. The news has brought about many questions and assumptions regarding team Mercedes’ future, and it is still very unlikely that fans will know who will be replacing the German driver for weeks to come. However, there has been speculation that the Executive Director of Mercedes AMG Petronas, Toto Wolff, is fond of bringing on Valtteri Bottas to replace the reigning world champion.
Bottas, who currently drives for Williams, came in just shy of the normal pack leaders, but has managed 9 podium finishes since his inaugural year in Formula 1 racing in 2013. In the previous years he has also finished in fourth and fifth in the driver standings, but fell to 8th with 85 points in 2016. This may be the best possible choice for Mercedes, as both Ferrari and Red Bull drivers— who had all finished ahead of Bottas this season— have contracts extending at the very least into next season. Williams also use a Mercedes hybrid engine, similar to Mercedes AMG Petronas, which would make the transition easy for Bottas if he were to become part of the team.
However, the departure of Rosberg could set the team back quite a ways. Both he and Lewis Hamilton have finished in the first and second positions for the past 3 years, making Mercedes the Constructor Champions with Grand Prix yet to be raced in each season. The sudden shift of drivers could give Red Bull or Ferrari the edge they need to reclaim the title from the dynasty that Mercedes has become.
While there may have been power shifts on the team in the past, it seems that Hamilton will now have to carry Mercedes until they have a suitable replacement for Rosberg.