Lewis backs 'nice guy' as team-mate

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (left) and Valtteri Bottas at the Belgian Grand Prix last season, when Bottas was racing with Williams. The duo will be team-mates in the new campaign.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (left) and Valtteri Bottas at the Belgian Grand Prix last season, when Bottas was racing with Williams. The duo will be team-mates in the new campaign.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton supported Mercedes' decision to hire Valtteri Bottas early on and the team can hope for fewer fireworks between their drivers this season, team boss Toto Wolff said on Wednesday.

Bottas has joined from Williams to take the place of Germany's Nico Rosberg, who retired in December, days after winning his first world title. The Finn's arrival was announced on Monday.

"We had a (talk) with Lewis before Christmas... and he said he thought Valtteri was a nice guy, one of the guys he actually got along with well in Formula One and that he felt he was a good option," said Wolff.

Speaking to Finnish commentator Oskari Saari in a Formulacast podcast, the Austrian said the driver dynamic had changed with Hamilton, 32, and Bottas, 27.

"I think that works well," he added. "It was OK already between Nico and Lewis but there was the luggage of the past... (now) it is a completely new relationship and there is no animosity from the past.

"There will be moments where it is going to be difficult but I think that how the personalities are for the team it's going to be a good situation and one that is maybe a bit easier to handle than the past."

Mercedes have not divulged the details of Bottas' contract, although media reports have indicated it is for one year with options.

But Wolff made clear that while the team saw long-term potential in the Finn, they needed to keep their options open, with champions like Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, 29, and McLaren's Fernando Alonso, 35, coming to the end of their contracts.

"We wouldn't have chosen Valtteri if we thought that he was not good enough to continue with the team," said Wolff, who was involved in Bottas' management but will no longer be. "But as a matter of fact, the market is very dynamic at the moment. Next year, options open - young drivers, Sebastian, Fernando, Valtteri, many of them. So it is about understanding that - and Valtteri does.

"Equally we have great faith and confidence in him that he can stay with us for a long time but now we need to see how the season goes."

Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), said on Wednesday it had approved Liberty Media's US$8 billion (S$11.42 billion) takeover of the sport.

"The World Motor Sport Council has unanimously approved the change of control of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company of the Formula One Group and rights holder) from CVC Capital Partners in favour of Liberty Media Corporation," a statement read after an extraordinary meeting in Geneva.

The deal involves the transfer of 100 per cent of the shares in Delta Topco, in which FIA has a one per cent stake, to Liberty Media Group.

The decision had been a formality after Liberty Media shareholders had approved the deal, first mooted in September, on Tuesday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Lewis backs 'nice guy' as team-mate'. Print Edition | Subscribe