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Bottas says Hamilton's Ferrari switch will "escalate" F1 driver market movement

Valtteri Bottas predicts Lewis Hamilton's surprise Ferrari move will "escalate movement in the market" among Formula 1 drivers, with the Sauber racer viewing the development as positive for the championship.

Hamilton's shock decision to leave Mercedes has energised the driver market ahead of 2025, just when it appeared to be stalling as Ferrari and McLaren moved to tie Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris to long-term deals.

World champion Max Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until the end of the 2028 season.

Hamilton's impending move means Mercedes is suddenly in need of a replacement to race alongside George Russell next season, with its options limited by the timing of Hamilton's decision and those new contracts being issued for desirable drivers at other teams.

Bottas is entering what he calls a "contract year" with Sauber – ahead of its Audi takeover for 2026 – where he has raced since being replaced as Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate by Russell ahead of the 2022 campaign.

When asked to give his reaction to the Hamilton/Ferrari news at Sauber's 2024 car launch at London's historic Guildhall on Monday, the Finn said he was "surprised" by the development as he "never actually thought that could happen".

He added: "But I think it's good for him – it's a big opportunity, it's a big move. And obviously he's made the decision himself.

"Yeah, [I'm] happy for him and for sure that's now going to escalate some movement in the market for 2025. So, at the moment, it's quite hard to predict how it's going to go.

"I never imagined it would happen. And also the timing of it. But I'm happy for him because it's good for him.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, leads Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, leads Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43

Photo by: Mark Sutton

"I think it's a great challenge. I'm sure it's big motivation for him to bring Ferrari to the top.

"So, it's kind of cool and it will definitely create some movement for the future, which is good for the whole sport and for some drivers, for sure."

Bottas also said there are "as far as I know, no burned bridges" about a potential return to Mercedes as Hamilton's replacement.

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But the Finn stopped short of expressing a stated desire for that to happen given his opportunity to now secure a long-term future as part of what he called the Sauber/Audi "project".

"It's no lie, I was in Brackley the day before actually," Bottas said, referencing an Instagram story he posted last week before Hamilton's Ferrari move was announced, which went viral among F1 fans given the location concerned near the Mercedes base.

"Not at the Mercedes factory, but I was there doing some other stuff.

"No, we haven't spoken on the phone yet with Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team boss].

"And if I would go back, yeah… Well, obviously, my priority and biggest commitment is the Audi project, which is my target.

"But if that wouldn't happen, then I'm actually there's no team that I wouldn't go [to] perhaps. I know my priorities and I've got my list."

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