Toto Wolff began his parting message to Valtteri Bottas by stressing the difficulty of the decision Mercedes had made to replace him.
Although Mercedes’ official announcement was carefully worded not to make it blatantly obvious that Bottas had been pushed out, there were signals within Wolff’s words that it had not been the Finn’s independent choice to leave.
Of course, in reality, it has been clear for several months that the World Champions were deliberating whether to have Bottas or George Russell as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate next year.
The next official announcement from Mercedes, therefore, is almost certain to be that Russell will drive for them in 2022 and beyond.
But first, they have paid tribute to Bottas, who is joining Alfa Romeo after five years with the team and will be hoping to bow out by maintaining his 100% record of helping them to win the Constructors’ World Championship since joining after Nico Rosberg’s retirement.
“This hasn’t been an easy process or a straightforward decision for us,” said Wolff, who always promised he would find a “soft landing” for the 32-year-old if he was to be replaced.
“Valtteri has done a fantastic job over the past five seasons and has made an essential contribution to our success and to our growth.
“Together with Lewis, he has built a benchmark partnership between two team-mates in the sport, and that has been a valuable weapon in our championship battles and pushed us to achieve unprecedented success.
“He would absolutely have deserved to stay with the team and I am pleased he has been able to choose an exciting challenge with Alfa next year to continue his career at the top level of the sport.
“When the time comes, he will leave us with huge goodwill from every single member of the team and he will forever be part of the Mercedes family.”
I would like to thank @MercedesAMGF1 for the 5 years together. We have achieved quite some things, that I will never forget. And hey, we have still this season to Win! Let’s get it 💪https://t.co/2LOhwh1teb#VB77 @F1 pic.twitter.com/iMJljyTNNc
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) September 6, 2021
Reflecting on his time with Mercedes, Bottas added: “I am so proud of everything we have achieved together in my time with Mercedes and it’s not over yet, because we have our biggest challenge so far to try and claim our eighth Constructors’ title.
“When I look back on my time with Mercedes, I want to be able to say I squeezed every drop out of this opportunity and left nothing on the table, and I want to make sure we finish our time together as champions.
“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 team-mates.
“Later this year, the time will come to say goodbye – that’s not for now, but I would like to thank Toto and the team for the respect in how we took the decision together.
“I am really pleased to have chosen my new challenge with Alfa Romeo, an exciting and iconic manufacturer, and by the opportunity to help lead the team forward up the grid.
“I’m as hungry as ever to race for results and when the time comes, for wins.
“But for now, my mission is clear – maximum attack for Mercedes, all the way to the final lap in Abu Dhabi.”
Valtteri Bottas to join Alfa Romeo
Valtteri Bottas is confirmed to be leaving Mercedes to join Alfa Romeo on a multi-year contract from 2022.