Nico Rosberg

"Mercedes wants Bottas" Toto shows his hand

With the Red Bull drivers secured and both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso apparently off-limits, Mercedes have made their big play, and it's the underrated Finn Valtteri Bottas that has been given the kiss of death.

Valtteri claimed the only podium result for Williams this season, and although it was thought interest from the top teams had wained after Ferrari elected to retain Kimi Raikkonen rather than bring Valtteri into their stable, it seems that the desperate position Mercedes find themselves in after the shock retirement of reigning world champion Nico Rosberg could be just the lifeline his career needed.

Andrew Benson from the Big British Castle writes:

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has zeroed in on Bottas as his favoured option as a replacement for Rosberg, who retired five days after winning his first world title last month despite having two further years on his Mercedes contract.
Wolff has approached Williams with a proposal that he gives them a major reduction in their engine bill - said to be in the region of €10m euros (£8.4m); more than half the total fee - in return for releasing Bottas.
Williams also have the option to run Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein in Bottas' place.
Wolff, who is part of Bottas' management team, sees the 27-year-old as a close like-for-like replacement for Rosberg - quick, a reliable and consistent points scorer, and relatively easy to manage alongside the more mercurial Hamilton.

Throw into the mix the potential of Paddy Lowe switching from Mercedes to Williams and you can see how these negotiations could get complicated very quickly, absolutely not what Mercedes need right now. 

The biggest issue with poaching Bottas away from Williams is that they will be left without anything like a senior driver. Even bringing in former Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr doesn't come close to rebalance the loss of Massa and Bottas (19 seasons combined F1 experience). 

Other potential options for the Mercedes seat included junior driver Pascal Wehrlein, and even retired former world champion Jenson Button. Bottas however was always the most likely first choice, with the overlooked Carlos Sainz a likely back-up if a deal can't be agreed upon.

Toro Rosso have agreed that "Chilli" Sainz would be released from his contract if Mercedes came knocking on their door, although without an engine deal between the teams it'll require ponying up for the full amount. 

Nico Rosberg clinches the title for 2016

Nico Rosberg claimed the podium result he needed to secure the world championship over teammate Lewis Hamilton. In a thrilling conclusion to the year Hamilton disobeyed orders from the team to speed up after he decided to back Rosberg into the traffic of Sebastian Vettel behind, ultimately reliability cost Hamilton the advantage heading in to the final race.

Realistically the Merecedes advantage was always going to make a Rosberg championship a reality if his car remained reliable.

After making contact with a Force India and spinning early in the race, Max Verstappen ran long in the first stint and looked like he was going to slow down Nico as much as possible. When Rosberg turned the wick up and passed Verstappen his trouble were not yet over. Sebastian Vettel running a contra strategy was aiming to finish the race on fresher tyres and the German cut through the field like hot butter and thanks to Hamilton's pedestrian lap times was pressuring Rosberg for the final laps.

Even if Vettel could get past Rosberg, the title would still have gone to Nico but the risk of contact, and with Verstappen only a few seconds down the road, it was a tense run to the line for the top three.

34 years after his father Keke Rosberg won the championship, Nico has overcome the doubters and joined an elite list of drivers to have achieved the ultimate prize in the sport. With Jenson Button retiring at this race the number of former world champions will remain at five with Rosberg joining Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen.

Nico Rosberg leads the F1 championship after narrow Singapore victory

After cruising to pole position, Nico Rosberg claimed his third victory in a row in Singapore after holding off a challenge from Daniel Ricciardo who pitted late for fresh tyres. Ricciardo's gamble was triggered by Hamilton, who was in P4 at the time, stopping for fresh soft tyres, Raikkonen tried to do the same to cover off the Mercedes but over one lap Hamilton was quick enough to earn the position. 

With clear air behind him, there was nothing to lose and Red Bull gave Riccardo the tyres he needed to close the gap and challenge for the lead. Yet Rosberg, who'd been managing a brake issue all race, had just enough performance in hand to hang on for the win. It's difficult to know, but if Ricciardo's tyres still had life left in them another few laps could have seen a return of the "shoey".

Rosberg now leads the championship by 8 points as the momentum flows back his way in what has proven to be an unpredictable season.

Having started from the back of the grid, a combination of skilful driving and strategy saw Sebastian Vettel climb back to P5.

Mid-race, the grudge match between Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat escalated to new heights with the pair trading blows, much to Verstappen's displeasure. 

There was drama off the line as Hulkenberg was squeezed by Carlos Sainz and contact sent him flying into the wall. Ultimately Sainz was avoiding Vertappen who made a sluggish launch and

With six races remaining, Mercedes have one hand on the championship trophy which they hope to claim next race in Malaysia. In the drivers' title it remains a two-horse race, yet it could easily go either way with Hamilton likely to strike back before the final few races which have traditionally been favourable to Rosberg.

Rosberg on pole as Hamilton's bad luck continues

It was an early shower for Nico Rosberg after claiming pole and vacating his car with one and a half minutes remaining in the session, but it was Lewis Hamilton's misfortune that tells the story, with the Brit failing to take to the track during Q3 with the same MGU-H issue that afflicted him in China.

"I was quite confident that the lap was good enough because in Q2 Ferrari was quite far away," said Rosberg.

"Of-course starting pole position will be great," said Rosberg when asked about his chances of another victory, "but it's never easy."

After telling the BBC that he, "can't really afford to fall any further back" Hamilton's issues should give Rosberg an easy run to his seventh straight race win, and expanding on his "magic pudding-like" points lead over the reigning champion this season. 

Valtteri Bottas will line up alongside Rosberg, with Sebastian Vettel setting the second fastest time but incurring a five-place grid penalty and will effectively be Hamilton's first major obstacle as the surge toward a podium position kicks off tomorrow.

Toto Wolff on Mercedes avoiding "the dark side of the force"

Fascinating sit-down with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in the "Daily Fail" where he reiterates his desire to keep F1 interesting while juggling the need for further Mercedes dominance.

On Red Bull (and Star Wars):

"The sport needs multiple winners. It needs the odd freak result. It needs the underdog to win. The moment you become a dominant force, you suffer and your brand suffers. You become the dark side of the force.
"It even happened to Red Bull. They joined the sport. They were the Jedis ... But after winning the world title four times in a row, they developed into an unsympathetic brand. Nobody wants the establishment."

Will he let Hamilton and Rosberg truly race each other in 2016?

"Maybe it's about unleashing the two of them [Hamilton and Rosberg] completely. Make them have their own strategy cars. That would be a solution."

However he goes on to say...

"I don't want fighting in the team. I'd like the boxers to fight but not the trainers and the physios and everybody around the ring.
"Maybe the big fall-out ending in a crash and animosity, in terms of the entertainment factor, maybe that's what's missing with Mercedes being so dominant. Maybe you need that, but fundamentally, I don't think we need that as a team.

Sounds like, despite the headline of the article, that things will be status quo or even less exciting than the last few years, at least if Wolff has his way. 

Source: Daily Mail