Wolff warns Mercedes of 2017 challenges

F1i 22/12/2016
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Wolff expects new challenges next year.

Toto Wolff has addressed the Mercedes team following another championship double, warning of a stronger challenge in 2017.

Mercedes won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the third consecutive year in 2016, but Nico Rosberg’s first drivers’ triumph was followed by his immediate retirement from F1.

The team is now on the lookout for a new driver to replace the German, but says it will not make an announcement before January 3, with Niki Lauda saying the decision could take until the end of next month.

Ahead of the Christmas and New Year break, executive director (business) Wolff addressed the Mercedes team, praising it for its recent success and warning of “bigger challenges ahead” than it has faced so far.

“2016 has been a remarkable year,” Wolff said. “Our Team has broken records in the history books; we have pursued our goals with passion and determination; and we were tested at each turn by unexpected challenges.

“Nico was crowned champion and then departed the stage. Lewis needed strength of character to handle defeat with composure and dignity. We celebrated our success and we learned from our mistakes.

“Through all these moments, we have emerged stronger and more capable to face together the road ahead.

“Our position in the spotlight puts every decision taken and every word spoken under an intense microscope. They are debated passionately among our fans and interpreted by the media.

“But there has been enough talking, now. This is the period for calm and considered reflection; to savour our achievements and prepare for the next campaign.

“As we move forward, we will continue to be guided above all by the best interests of our Team. This philosophy is bigger than any one season or any one person.

“It has forged a group that is humble in victory and gracious in defeat; hungry for challenge and resilient under pressure; never satisfied with the status quo, always seeking to improve.

“Our values have been the foundation stones of three world championships. And there will be no compromise as we begin our quest for a fourth in 2017.

“It is now time for some days away from the world of racing, to be enjoyed among family and friends. To recharge the batteries for the bigger challenges ahead.

“We will tackle new rules, welcome a new race driver and take on even stronger rivals. It will test our Team’s character, strength and capability. Bring it on!”

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Ricciardo rules himself out for Mercedes

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Daniel Ricciardo.

Mercedes are yet to name who they want as Lewis Hamilton’s new partner, although reports say they are chasing Valtteri Bottas from Williams.

Ricciardo, who finished third in the 2016 drivers’ championship behind Rosberg and Hamilton, said he wasn’t about to jump ship.

“I’ve got two more years at Red Bull. That’s where I’m going to be,” he told reporters in Perth.

“There’s a lot of people that are tempted to jump into that (Mercedes) seat, and you don’t blame them.

“I just hope whoever gets it appreciates it. It’s a damn good one. But for me, you’ll see me at Albert Park (Melbourne) in a Red Bull.”

Mercedes communications chief Bradley Lord said last week there would be no announcement until next year, following Rosberg’s shock retirement this month.

His comments came as French media reported Felipe Massa was in talks with Williams about reversing his decision to retire, which would free up 27-year-old Bottas to switch to Mercedes.

Massa, 35, retired from Formula One at the end of the season, but French sports daily L’Equipe has said he is in talks for another year with Williams.

One of the two seats at Williams has already been taken by rookie Lance Stroll, 18.

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Symonds to leave Williams

F1i 20/12/2016
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Symonds will exit at the end of the season.

Symonds joined in 2013 and helped lead the team to consecutive third-place finishes in the constructors’ championship before it slipped to fifth place this year.

Coming to the end of his three-year contract, Williams has now confirmed the 63-year-old will leave the team on December 31.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams praised Symonds for the impact he has had on the team since his arrival.

“Pat has been a tremendous asset to this team over the past three years,” Williams said. “Pat’s appointment was the start of a major restructuring exercise, and he has been pivotal in reshaping Williams into what is a much stronger racing team today.

“I would like to thank him for all of his hard work and commitment during that time. We now look to the future and will be announcing details regarding the team’s technical leadership in due course.”

Williams has been linked with a move for Mercedes executive director [technical] Paddy Lowe, who is believed to be moving closer to a senior technical role at Grove.

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