Valtteri Bottas to join Alfa Romeo in 2022
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has announced he will leave Mercedes for Alfa Romeo at the end of the season current F1 season. Alasdair Russell details what the move could mean for the Finn and the 2022 grid.
After five years in a dominant Mercedes team, Valtteri Bottas has announced that he will be leaving the current Constructors’ Champions for Alfa Romeo at the end of the 2021 Formula One season.
The Finn signed for the Brackley squad in 2017, replacing then World Champion Nico Rosberg after he announced his shock retirement from F1 at the end of 2016. Since joining The Silver Arrows, he has taken nine wins and 17 pole positions, reaching Q3 in every single one of his 92 qualifying sessions with them so far.
In a statement announcing this move, Bottas paid tribute to Mercedes and current teammate Lewis Hamilton, saying: “It has been a privilege and a great sporting challenge to work with Lewis, and the harmony in our relationship played a big part in the Constructors’ Championships we won as teammates.”
The move reunites Bottas with Fred Vasseur, team principal of Alfa Romeo. The two have history, working together at ART in F3 in 2009 and 2010, with Bottas clinching the 2011 GP3 title under Vasseur. Vasseur hailed Bottas’ signing, saying: “Valtteri is the right driver to help Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen make a step forward towards the front of the grid”.
His departure has been expected for a significant amount of time, with many involved in the sport describing the move as “the worst-kept secret in F1.” While there have been a number of disputes over Bottas’ happiness at having to play second fiddle to Hamilton, the move is more likely to have come from Bottas wanting to commit to a multi-year deal, something that Mercedes have been unwilling to offer in his five seasons with the team.
This move could bring about a domino effect in the driver market, as signings will need to be made to fill newly-vacated seats ahead of the 2022 season. Alfa Romeo could go into next season with an entirely new driver pairing – while Bottas will replace retiring F1 stalwart Kimi Räikkönen, there is no guarantee on the future of Antonio Giovinazzi, with Nico Hülkenberg, Alex Albon and Formula Two’s Nyck De Vries all under consideration.
However, Alfa Romeo could face some stiff competition for Albon’s signature, with chatter suggesting that the Thai driver could be on his way to Williams. If Bottas’ departure is a poorly-kept secret, George Russell’s move to Mercedes cannot even be considered a secret at this point. The Brit has been lined up to drive for Mercedes for seemingly his entire F1 career thus far, and Williams could be turning to former the Red Bull and Alpha Tauri man to fill his seat.
All that being said, the rumour mill will continue to churn out gossip until each of the 10 teams in the sport have officially announced their 2022 driver line-ups, so until then, the only definite is that Bottas will be bowing out of a successful five year at Mercedes for a new challenge.