In what is fast becoming an unusual post-season musical chairs game for Formula One drivers, Felipe Massa has reportedly reversed his decision to retire at the end of the 2016 season, contracted for at least another year to drive at Williams.
According to BBC Sport, the 35-year-old Brazilian was drafted in to replace teammate Valtteri Bottas, who is set to move to the Mercedes AMG Petronas team. There, the 27-year-old Finn will take the place of world champion Nico Rosberg, who himself announced his shock retirement from the sport shortly after winning the driver’s championship in Abu Dhabi last month.
Williams is expected to let Bottas go once the team secures a reduction in its engine bill from Mercedes, a deal set to be finalised after the Christmas period alongside Massa’s. The team rejected an initial offer of a €10 million (RM46.7 million) discount, but will accept a better deal set to be closer to the full engine bill of €17 million (RM79.2 million).
Massa was approached by Williams after the latter learned that Bottas became Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s ideal replacement for the dependable Rosberg, alongside the fast but unpredictable Lewis Hamilton. The BBC report stated that Massa was open to the idea of coming back, as he only left the sport because there was no space for him at Williams or any other similarly competitive team.
He will become the experienced driver Williams needs in the absence of Bottas, as title sponsor Martini reportedly requires at least one driver over 25 years of age for promotional reasons. Racing alongside Massa in 2017 is 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll, who is expected to bring in sponsorship of around £20 million (RM110.8 million).