Melbourne’s Albert Park grand prix, the traditional Formula One curtain raiser, has been pushed back to April 10 in a record-breaking 23-event calendar for 2022.
Valtteri Bottas will leave Mercedes at the end of the current season and join Alfa Romeo on a “multi-year deal”, the Formula One team confirmed on Monday.
Bottas’ departure from world champions Mercedes was widely expected and he is likely to be replaced by Britain’s George Russell, currently of Williams, alongside record title-holder Lewis Hamilton.
“A new chapter in my racing career is opening,” the 32-year-old Finn Bottas said on the Alfa Romeo homepage.
“I’m grateful for the trust the team has put in me and I cannot wait to repay their faith: I’m as hungry as ever to race for results and, when the time comes, for wins.”
Bottas has won nine grands prix with Mercedes, his team since he replaced Nico Rosberg alongside Hamilton in 2017.
But while a solid understudy to Hamilton, Bottas rarely looked capable of challenging for a world title and Russell, 23, has impressed both in a limited Williams car and while deputising for Hamilton when he had the coronavirus at the end of last season.
Russell could be announced as a Mercedes driver for 2022 as early as Tuesday.
“I am so proud of everything we have achieved together in my time with Mercedes – and it is not over yet, because we have our biggest challenge so far to try and claim our eighth constructors’ title,” said Bottas
“When I look back on my time with Mercedes, I want to be able to say that I squeezed every drop out of this opportunity and left nothing on the table; and I want to make sure that we finish our time together as champions.”
Bottas helped Mercedes to constructors’ titles in each season with the team so far and ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, they lead the standings by 12 points from Red Bull.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen will retire at the end of 2021 to make way for Bottas but other current driver Antonio Giovinazzi has not yet confirmed his spot for next season.