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Massa agrees 2017 Williams deal, freeing up Bottas

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Felipe Massa has signed a deal to come out of retirement and return to Williams as Valtteri Bottas' replacement, according to multiple reports.

Massa had planned to retire from Formula One following this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and received an emotional send off at his home race in Brazil last month. However, a surprise return in 2017 would answer the biggest question hanging over F1 today by paving the way for former teammate Bottas to replace retiring world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.

Bottas currently tops Mercedes' wishlist, but his 2017 Williams contract has so far prevented a straight switch to the world champions. Williams has been reluctant to let him go amid fears it will destabilise the team under next year's new regulations, but Massa's return would provide the continuity the technical side of the team is looking for.

A report on Brazil's Grande Premio website said Massa signed a contract on Monday that gives Williams an option on his services if Mercedes goes ahead with the Bottas deal. Massa would partner 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll, who joins the team off the back of championship success in Formula 3.

Last week deputy team principal Claire Williams said she would only let Bottas go if a credible replacement can be found in time. That sparked rumours that Massa could return, with the Brazilian driver posting a cryptic tweet ahead of a family holiday on Friday.

If Massa does return next year it will be his 15th season in Formula One and his fourth consecutive year racing for Williams.