Valtteri Bottas will leave the Mercedes-AMG F1 team at the end of the 2021 season to race for Alfa Romeo in 2022, paving the way for George Russell to join the seven-time constructors' champions.
Speculation had been rife for several weeks that 2021 would be the final year that Bottas would race for the team based in Brackley, but both Mercedes and Bottas had refused to confirm or deny whether the Finn’s five-year tenure as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate was at an end.
Now Bottas has confirmed that he will switch to race for Alfa Romeo as part of a “multi-year” deal. While a return to Williams had also been mooted for Bottas, he has decided to move to the Swiss team instead, reuniting him with team principal Fred Vasseaur, who worked with Bottas at ART in F3 and GP3, helping him to the latter title.
"A new chapter in my racing career is opening," said Bottas. "I'm excited to join Alfa Romeo for 2022 and beyond for what is going to be a new challenge with an iconic manufacturer.
"Alfa Romeo is a brand that needs no introduction, they have written some great pages of F1 history, and it's going to be an honour to represent this marque.
"The potential of the set-up in Hinwil is clear, and I am relishing the opportunity to help lead the team forward up the grid, especially with the new regulations in 2022 giving the team a chance to make a leap in performance.
"I'm grateful for the trust the team has put in me, and I cannot wait to repay their faith. I'm as hungry as ever to race for results and, when the time comes, for wins.
"I know Fred well and I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of the team I am going to work with, building relationships as strong as the ones I have at Mercedes."
The change means it is now pretty certain that George Russell will make the switch from the back of the grid at Williams to F1’s dominant team of recent years. Russell, who has impressed in his three-years at Williams, is a Mercedes junior driver and had carried out tyre testing and demo runs for the team, including at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard.
Last week the 2022 F1 driver market was ignited when veteran racer, and 2007 F1 champion, Kimi Räikkönen announced he would leave Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season. That led to speculation as to whether Bottas would join Alfa Romeo or if former Red Bull driver Alex Albon might also take that seat.
Who will partner Bottas at Alfa Romeo is yet to be revealed, with current driver Antonio Giovinazzi yet to be confirmed for 2022 and a number of other Ferrari junior drivers also in search of a seat. Williams, Bottas' other potential destination and the team he began his F1 career with, is also yet to announce its 2022 driver line-up and Red Bull might wish to place Albon with the team from Grove for the new season.
"It is a pleasure to welcome Valtteri to the team and we are looking forward to our journey together," said the Alfa Romeo team principal Vasseur. "With him, we bring to Hinwil a strong team player with experience at the sharp end of the grid.
"Valtteri has been an integral part of a team that rewrote the history books and he has four constructors' world titles to his name.
"He is the right driver to help Alfa Romeo make a step forward towards the front of the grid. Our relationship goes back a long way, to when we worked together in successful campaigns in F3 and GP3, and his talent and skills have been evident ever since, only growing with the time."