The Williams deputy team principal, Claire Williams, has admitted that talks regarding the future of the team’s highly-rated young driver Valtteri Bottas are taking place, amid strong rumours that the Finnish driver is set to replace his countryman Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari.
She added that it would be a disappointment, should he leave the team he joined as test driver in 2010 and for whom he raced since 2013, but the potential of many of next year’s driver lineups may well hang on where Bottas ends up.
“There are a lot of conversations,” Williams said, relating to her driver’s future. “They are private conversations – they have to be private because they are contractually-related.
“If Valtteri were to leave, and it’s a big if, of course there would be disappointment, because we have invested that time and resource and he is a great talent; that would be the greatest disappointment.”
Bottas himself remained coy on the subject. “Of course as a driver you want to know as soon as possible, but sometimes you need to wait,” he said. “It doesn’t really change anything. No matter if I’m going to start some other [driver] transfers or not.” But some discussions were clearly taking place. When asked whether he would be with Williams next year, he said: “I don’t know. Nothing is confirmed.”
Any concrete announcement of Bottas’s position would likely trigger other potential driver changes. McLaren have a contract for another year with Jenson Button, but he could be a target for Williams which would see the driver return to the team with whom he began his F1 career in 2000. He admitted that his options remained open. “Nothing is certain. I don’t feel I have to think about next year yet.” Raikkonen has made it clear he wants to stay with Ferrari but the team, who are understood to be in talks with Williams, are putting off making a decision for 2016.
Sergio Pérez’s accident in first practice meant the team withdrew his car and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg’s car from the afternoon session as they sought to ascertain what had caused the right-rear suspension failure that led to the crash.
The world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has won in Hungary four times and leads his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 17 points in the title race, topped both sessions. He was a tenth quicker than Rosberg in the morning and seventh tenths up on him while running qualification simulations on the soft tyre in the afternoon, when the Red Bulls also performed well splitting the two Mercedes entries.
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