Williams has confirmed that Felipe Massa has changed his mind about retirement and will return to the team as a race driver in 2017, on a one-year deal.
The Brazilian replaces Valtteri Bottas, whose deal to join Mercedes has finally been completed after weeks of negotiation.
Massa announced his retirement well before the end of the 2016 season, but it was clear that he had been motivated in large part by the lack of an offer to stay with the Grove team, which already had its sights set on Lance Stroll. With no obvious decent opportunity elsewhere, he preferred to walk away on a high.
However when it became obvious that Bottas was available to Mercedes he was quickly approached about the vacant seat.
The announcement is also good news for Bernie Ecclestone, the Interlagos promoters and Brazil’s Globo TV company, all of whom were keen to ensure that there was a Brazilian driver on the grid in 2016.
“Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams,” said Massa. “I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve. Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.
“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”
Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams said; “I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign. With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity.
“Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.
“Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.”