NOVEMBER 28, 2011

Bottas favourite for Williams seat?

Reigning GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas is emerging as favourite to partner Pastor Maldonado at Williams next season.

The chances of Kimi Raikkonen joining the team now seem to be over. The way we hear it, there was a fundamental difference of opinion over the 2007 world champion's worth.

Those negotiating on his behalf apparently took the view that as Williams was not in a position to pay Raikkonen the retainer they thought he warranted, Kimi should be given equity in the team. If that was an offer not extended to Adrian Newey, it was never likely to be made to Raikkonen.

On the other side, Williams may well have considered that Raikkonen was worth nowhere near the stratospheric retainers he attracted at McLaren and then Ferrari, who let's not forget, signed him as a Michael Schumacher replacement.

In 2008, however, Kimi struggled to assert himself over Felipe Massa, who had, on average, been the best part of half a second from Schumacher's regular pace and has since struggled against Fernando Alonso to a similar degree.

It appears, however, that Williams is keen on Raikkonen's countryman, 22-year-old Bottas, who won four times en route to this year's GP3 crown and who impressed the team in the recent Abu Dhabi young driver test.

Adrian Sutil's position is a complication, however. The German had finished the season with Force India in impressive style and deserves to retain a seat in F1. He is also believed to have financial backing and the support of Mercedes Benz. Williams is one of the few seats apparently open to Sutil. There is one at Lotus Renault apparently, but the position there will not be eased by Sutil's involvement in an alleged glassing incident with the team's Eric Lux earlier in the season.

Williams is apparently confident that they do not need to worry about rumoured rancor at governmental level over Maldonado's PDVSA backing from Venezuela.