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Bottas close to Mercedes move

Williams are close to agreeing a deal that would see their Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas replace retired Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, deputy principal Claire Williams said on Sunday.

Speaking on stage at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, Williams indicated that only small details needed to be resolved.

"It now is exactly that," she said when asked whether it was a question of "crossing the t's and dotting the i's" in the agreement.

Rosberg announced his retirement early last month, five days after winning his first title at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

His decision left champions Mercedes, the sport's dominant team, in a difficult position with all the other top drivers signed up with rival outfits.

Bottas was an obvious choice for his experience and existing contacts, with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff previously a shareholder in Williams and also involved early on in Bottas' management.

Former champions Williams also use Mercedes engines.

However, Williams will also need an experienced driver to partner 18-year-old Canadian rookie Lance Stroll.

Felipe Massa, a former Ferrari driver who has raced for Williams for the last three years and whose retirement was announced last season, is now expected to return as Bottas' replacement.

"I suppose as soon as Nico made his announcement, I knew the call was going to come from Toto," said Williams, who added that her team were amenable.

"For us, you don't want to stand in the way of a driver who has the opportunity to go and race finally in a car that's winning races, winning world championships."

The season starts in Australia on March 26, with the first test of the new cars scheduled for Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya at the end of next month. - REUTERS

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