Nico in neutral, won't reveal Lewis' secrets

Valtteri Bottas racing for Williams at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year. He will be in a Mercedes this season but predecessor Nico Rosberg feels the team have to look at Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso as options to take over the wheel next season.
Valtteri Bottas racing for Williams at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year. He will be in a Mercedes this season but predecessor Nico Rosberg feels the team have to look at Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso as options to take over the wheel next season. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MONACO • Retired Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg has warned his replacement at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, not to expect an "easy ride" from team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas, 27, joined Mercedes last month after Rosberg's shock retirement just five days after winning last year's world title, but signed only a one-year deal.

Speaking ahead of the Laureus World Sport Awards yesterday, Rosberg said he would be happy to give the Finn some advice ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix next month.

"I would tell him don't expect an easy ride, that's for sure," he told reporters in Monaco. "It's going to be challenging coming into a new team with Lewis having been there for so many years and with the new regulations.

"Lewis is one of the best out there so the level is extremely high. At the same time, Valtteri is very talented. He can achieve great things as well, as long as the team give him a good car.

"He (Bottas) has asked if we can have a chat soon and I am happy to do that, of course - but I will stay very, very neutral. I won't give away any Lewis secrets for example, I'll just help him in a way to integrate better into the team."

But the German added that Mercedes should consider lining up Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, 29, or McLaren's Fernando Alonso, 35, to replace Bottas. The duo are out of contract at the end of this season.

"It would definitely make sense for Sebastian to have a look at that Mercedes seat for 2018 and for Mercedes to have a look at him," he said. "He's one of the best drivers out there and he doesn't have a contract for 2018, so they should explore the possibility. It could be a good fit. Alonso as well, he is not the youngest but he's still driving at his best."

Rosberg suggested this week that he was ready to put his own long-standing rivalry with Hamilton aside and did not rule out a reconciliation with the three-time world champion.

"We were best friends after all, 15 years ago," said the 31-year-old.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Nico in neutral, won't reveal Lewis' secrets'. Print Edition | Subscribe