Valtteri Bottas is very much a man in demand this Christmas. The Finn is at the centre of a tug-of-war between Williams and Mercedes for his services in 2017, but he remains favourite to drive for the Silver Arrows next year.
Bottas will enter the final year of his contract next term, and with connections to Mercedes chief Toto Wolff plus Williams’ engine deal with the German giant, there is plenty of leverage for Merc to think they can claim the 27-year-old’s services next year.
But Sir Frank Williams has rebuffed the first bid, and it is far from certain that the Grove-based outfit will let their star driver go.
Williams could land themselves a significantly cheaper engine deal, plus a tidy cash windfall from allowing Bottas to leave.
But despite the financial boost, Williams’ drivers next year would be 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll and probably, Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein, a man with only a sole season of Formula One experience to call upon.
It would be one of the weakest driver line-ups on the grid, and having lost fourth place in the constructor’s championship to Force India this year, Williams need to bounce back.
They may also feel that with the retirement of Felipe Massa, Bottas could kick on to another level next year, as Stroll learns the ropes.
Mercedes are likely to return with an improved offer however, and Bottas is the 1/2 favourite to claim the vacancy opened by reigning champion Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.
Wehrlein is 6/4 second favourite, and it appears Mercedes will quickly turn to the German if they cannot land tempt Bottas from Williams.
Next up is Fernando Alonso at 5/1, and though he is unlikely to quit McLaren, the Spaniard’s irrepressible desire for a third world title means he cannot be discounted.
Carlos Sainz leads the rest in the betting, but at 14/1, it seems that Bottas, Werhlein and Alonso are the only realistic contenders for the best seat in F1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing