NO 2007 IN 2017: Lewis Hamilton is reportedly against Pascal Wehrlein joining Mercedes F1 in 2017. Image: AP / Wong Maye-E
London - It is now almost certain that Mercedes will head into 2017 with Valtteri Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's new team mate.
Authoritative reports say Felipe Massa has agreed to scrap his retirement plans in order to replace the departing Finn Bottas at Williams.
Pascal out of the race
It' s a blow to Pascal Wehrlein, the junior Mercedes driver who had earlier looked the favourite.
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost told the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper: "They (Mercedes) were in a very difficult situation. They have dominated but suddenly lost the world champion, and it happened too late for them to replace him with a top driver because of all the contracts."
READ: No word on Rosberg successor until 2017 - Mercedes
So when asked if he would have given the seat to 22-year-old Wehrlein, Tost answered: "Pascal is a great backup driver, but we are talking about the champion team. Pascal may be able to fight for victory, but it's too early for him. I've always said that it takes three years for a driver to get comfortable in Formula 1.
"Of course, Hamilton-Wehrlein was the easiest option for them, but they are fighting for the constructors' championship and a lot of money is at stake. And it's also not clear if that driver composition would have a bad influence on the stability of the team."
Repeat of 2007...
Indeed, Germany's Auto Bild claims that triple world champion Hamilton actually campaigned against Wehrlein joining. His argument is that the situation of pairing an established champion with a rookie can famously go bad - just as being Fernando Alonso's team mate at McLaren in 2007 did.
Indeed, it seems boss Toto Wolff was convinced of that possibility, telling the Kolner Express newspaper: "Lewis and Pascal would be an explosive combination. What I want to avoid is the Alonso-Hamilton scenario."
Below is a timely of how fraught the Alonso-Hamilton relationship was back in 2007.