Mercedes’ board has said that it has no concerns over Toto Wolff’s association with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas after he identified the Finn as the team’s number one target to replace Nico Rosberg.
Wolff was with Williams when they first signed Bottas as a test driver in 2010 and despite his current status as the Mercedes team boss he is still part of the driver’s management group.
However, Wolff does not have a hands-on involvement in Bottas’ career and the Mercedes hierarchy have expressed no worries about the arrangement when Wolff made a full disclosure at a board meeting when the team agreed to go after Bottas.
Williams has rejected Mercedes’ initial approach for the driver but it is thought that negotiations are continuing and the team is hoping to reach a deal before Christmas. There are rumours that Mercedes are offering to halve the amount Williams are charged for their engine supply in exchange for releasing Bottas from his contract.
If Bottas is signed then Mercedes would start the new season without a German driver for the first time since they became a fully-forged outfit seven years ago. For a number of years Mercedes had an all-German team of Michael Schumacher and Rosberg.
However, insiders with the team have said that nationality isn’t a priority factor when searching for a new driver and that the team is determined to find the best possible replacement for Rosberg ahead of next season when their dominance is expected to come under threat from Red Bull with their line-up of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
If Mercedes is unable to reach a deal with Williams for Bottas then the team may promote Pascal Wehrlein, the 22 year old graduate from their young driver programme, and they may also be targeting Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.