Pat Symonds, the technical director of British racing team Williams, has publicly expressed his displeasure with the iconic Italian racing outfit. According to the BBC, Symonds feels that Ferrari are guilty of attempting to “destabilize” Williams over the ongoing story the team have with Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas, who has been with Williams since the start of his career, will be a free agent at the end of this Formula One season, which has been especially fruitful for him. The Finn is currently 4th in the drivers’ standings behind 4-time champion Sebastian Vettel, and rumours of him making a move from Williams to Ferrari have persisted all year.
There has been strong speculation that all is not well between the team and current driver, 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen. The Iceman is said to be increasingly unhappy with team directives, and feels they stifle drivers’ freedom – an opinion echoed by several F1 veterans, Fernando Alonso among them.
The team are said to be displeased with Raikkonen’s flagging performances and refusal to follow team instruction, and are looking to replace them with Bottas, say several F1 sources. At the Hungarian Grand Prix last month, F1 commentator David Croft said that sources within Ferrari had described “Bottas to Ferrari (as) a done deal,” lending credence to what has only been chatter so far.
Several suggest, however, that the deal has been cemented already, managed and negotiated by Bottas’ longtime manager, Frenchman Didier Coton, and is said to be worth £13million.
Bottas himself earlier this year described the rumours as amusing, but beyond that has refrained from commenting on them, saying only that he was “just focusing on this season”. Both Williams and Bottas are happy with each other, and Symonds has said he hopes for this good relationship to continue, but that he felt the constant Ferrari rumours would negatively impact it.
In a recent interview, Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne said the team were “holding off” on any decision regarding Raikkonen or his future. The Iceman, for his part, said in a press conference ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this year that if he was “not with Ferrari next year, then I don’t want to be with any other team,” implying he would retire if his contract was not renewed.
The option on the Finn’s contract expired last month, but the team are free to independently rewrite contracts to sign him on should they wish to do so.