The Williams F1 Team has confirmed – as many have expected – that Felipe Massa will join the team for the 2014 Formula 1 season.
With Valtteri Bottas being retained in the team’s second car, that means that Pastor Maldonado – and his millions in PDVSA sponsorship – will be heading to a different team.
Massa found himself on the F1 driver market following Ferrari’s decision to replace him with Kimi Räikkönen, and his management team worked hard to negotiate him a seat at Williams when it quickly became apparent that Maldonado was looking to jump ship after the team’s worst season in its history.
While there would be many who’d argue that Massa might be better off heading into retirement than accepting a gig with a team that has floundered in the lower-midfield, the team will be entering the 2014 season with a new technical leader (Pat Symonds) and new engines (from Mercedes) – a perfect environment to draw upon the Brazilian’s years of experience.
“We are delighted to be able to confirm our 2014 driver line-up and welcome Felipe into the Williams family. He is an exceptional talent and a real fighter on the race track; he also brings a wealth of experience as we begin a new chapter in our story,” Williams team founder Sir Frank Williams said.
“Williams is one of the most successful and important teams of all time in Formula One,” Massa said in Williams’ media release.
“When I was a kid, I always dreamed about racing for Williams, Ferrari or McLaren and I’m glad to be signing with another icon of the sport following my time at Ferrari. It is also nice to remember that some of the best Brazilian drivers raced for Williams and cemented a strong national link with the team.
“With such a major change of regulations in 2014, I hope my experience will be useful in helping the team in its effort to move on from a difficult period. Since my early days in motor racing, I don’t remember seeing so many new rules in a single season and I’m fully prepared to work with everyone at Grove to make sure we find the right direction. I’m highly motivated to start working hard from the very beginning in what is an exciting new challenge in my career.”
Bottas, a long-time Williams protégé, will also remain with the team for a second season of racing. The Finn is yet to score a championship point so far, but he has largely matched Maldonado’s pace all season, with his highlight being an outstanding second-row qualifying result at the Canadian Grand Prix.
“I have faith in Williams and I know we can do so much better in the future than our current performance shows,” Bottas added.
“I am looking forward to having Felipe as my teammate. He is a quick and experienced driver and together we will be pushing to the maximum to improve the car and get as many points as we can next season. We will be working throughout the winter to ensure we are ready for the challenge of 2014. I would also like to thank everyone at Williams, especially Frank, Claire and the senior management for their on-going trust in me.”
With another team having finalised its driver line-up for the 2014 season, that leaves just Force India, Sauber Caterham (potentially two seats apiece) and Lotus and Marussia (one seat apiece) with vacancies to fill. Maldonado’s camp is understood to be in negotiations with Lotus, Sauber and Force India.