Williams hint at sanctioning Bottas Mercedes switch

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Valtteri Bottas would be allowed to fill the Mercedes void left by Nico Rosberg as long as Williams are able to find an "experienced" replacement, deputy team principal Claire Williams has revealed.

Rosberg edged out fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in a nail-biting battle for the 2016 F1 title last month, before then stunning the sport by surprisingly announcing his retirement.

There has been constant speculation ever since as to who will replace the German, with Bottas one of the frontrunners after building quite the reputation for himself at Williams.

And the Finn may be allowed to make the switch so long as someone of the ilk of Felipe Massa - who retired in November - can be lured to Williams in his stead.

"I'm delighted to see that a team like Mercedes lists Valtteri as a potential replacement for Nico," Claire Williams told BBC Sport.

"We have always known Valtteri is one of the sport's key talents and are proud that the championship leaders recognise this.

"However, Williams has its own ambitions and we must always ensure we give our team the best opportunity to move forward. Any changes would only be made if Williams remains in a strong position to compete and develop in 2017.

"If we did allow Valtteri to leave, we would only do this if an experienced, credible alternative was available, such as someone like Felipe Massa, for example.

"Whatever we decide, it must be in the best interests of this team."