The Finn, who has for the last two years been employed by Grove-based Williams Racing, has been approached by bosses at the Prancing Horse, say sources close to the team. Reports emerging from Germany indicate that Ferrari are looking to pay Williams €4million to secure the services of Bottas, an offer it looks as though Williams will indeed refuse. The team are said to potentially be looking at a €15million offer for the Finn, although Ferrari principal Maurizio Arrivabene has apparently rejected the amount.
Bottas has had a brilliant past two years with British team Williams, finishing a staggering 19 of his last 26 races with points. He had three podium finishes last year, and his highest finish so far came at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, where he finished third behind a Mercedes 1-2, then denying Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel a podium spot. Vettel was denied a podium at the Austrian Grand Prix by another Williams – Bottas’ teammate, veteran Felipe Massa, who is himself a former Ferrari driver.
Ferrari had to make an offer not only to Bottas but to Williams because the driver is still contractually obligated to his team, and will be until 2016. Any advance release will have to be dealt with via his team in addition.
Apart from a freak performance at the Monaco Grand Prix, Bottas has not finished below 6th on the grid so far this season, and judging by his current performance, he may well win another podium at Silverstone. While he is 5th in the Drivers’ Championship standings, the ace is only 5 points behind compatriot and former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who retired spectacularly from the recently concluded Austrian Grand Prix following a crash with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who would be Bottas’ teammate, has been outpaced by him before. Williams are keen to retain Bottas, however, with chief engineer Pat Symonds saying “I know he feels very comfortable here, and he is an important part of the team.”
Nico Hulkenberg, fresh off a brilliant victory at Le Mans and a strongly improving performance this racing season, finished the Austrian Grand Prix in a season-highest 6th. He is said to be the main contender for the spot potentially vacated by Bottas, and will then go on to partner Massa at Williams. Hulkenberg is currently at Force India, where he has been since last year with racing partner Sergio Perez.
The same report also said that while Ferrari acknowledged Hulkenberg’s talent, he was not in the running for Raikkonen’s possible spot as the team did not want to partner two German drivers. Hulkenberg has driven with Williams before, in 2010 – in its former iteration as AT&T Williams.