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Bottas closer to Mercedes move

Red Bull's Ricciardo rules out replacing Rosberg, paving way for Finn to join world champions

Australian Daniel Ricciardo yesterday ruled out joining Mercedes next year to replace retired world champion Nico Rosberg, saying he is happy at Red Bull.

"I've got two more years at Red Bull. That's where I'm going to be," Ricciardo, who finished third in the 2016 drivers' championship behind Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, 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."

With Ricciardo ruling himself out of a move to Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, who has been at Williams since 2013, is the favourite to replace Rosberg.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is also involved in the Finn's management.

Williams use Mercedes engines and a discount on them, coupled with Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe possibly being allowed to join the team earlier than scheduled, is likely to sweeten any deal for Bottas.

Mercedes, who are believed to have former Ferrari technical head James Allison lined up, have said there will be no announcement on their driver line-up until the New Year.

If Bottas leaves, Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa is tipped 
to come back out of the retirement he started - somewhat reluctantly when it became evident there was nowhere else for him to go - at the end of last month.

Media reports indicated Massa, 35, had agreed the terms for a return to Williams should Bottas go, to partner Canadian Lance Stroll, still just 18.

Massa is currently on holiday, his manager Nicolas Todt was not immediately available and neither Williams nor Mercedes have confirmed anything.

Formula 1's post-season shake-up took another spin on Tuesday with Williams announcing the departure of technical head Pat Symonds.

Williams said Symonds, 63, would be leaving them on Dec 31, the news coming amid speculation that Lowe is set to join them from Mercedes to take up a similar role.

Symonds, who worked with the late Brazilian great Ayrton Senna at Toleman in the 1980s and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher at Benetton in the 1990s, joined Williams in 2013.

"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," deputy principal Claire Williams said.

"We now look to the future and will be announcing details regarding the team's technical leadership in due course."

Symonds left Formula 1 in 2009 when his then employers Renault were embroiled in a race-fixing scandal after it emerged that they had ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet to crash deliberately at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The Briton returned as a consultant in 2011 with Virgin Racing, now Manor. - WIRE SERVICES

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