By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Mercedes, Formula One’s dominant team who have yet to announce a replacement for retired world champion Nico Rosberg, will present their 2017 car at Silverstone on Feb. 23.
The Mercedes website (www.mercedesamgf1.com) said on Wednesday that the reigning champions would “unveil the beast to the world” at the British Grand Prix circuit down the road from their Brackley factory.
Fans who register for a prize draw on Facebook will have the chance to win VIP access to witness the first laps of the W08 challenger.
Mercedes won 19 of 21 races last season and started all but one from pole position.
They will start the season in Australia in March as favorites for a fourth successive title, with Britain’s triple world champion Lewis Hamilton leading the campaign in the absence of former rival Rosberg.
The German driver stunned Formula One by announcing his retirement five days after winning a first title in Abu Dhabi in late November, saying he had reached the peak and achieved his ambition.
His decision left Mercedes in a difficult position, with other leading drivers all under contract with rivals at such a late point in the year.
It was also an admission of just how tough a team mate Hamilton, who won 10 grands prix to Rosberg’s nine, had been to beat over the course of a season.
Rosberg’s replacement is expected to be announced imminently, with testing starting at the end of February in Spain.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas is seen as a safe bet, as well as a safe pair of hands, to land the seat. The motorsport.com website has reported that the Williams driver visited the Mercedes factory over the Christmas break.
The 2017 season will see wider tires, faster cars and revised aerodynamics with Mercedes likely to face a tougher test from rivals Red Bull — who have Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen — and Ferrari.
“I hope we can be as successful as we’ve been in 2016. It was not always an easy ride and I don’t expect it to be any easier in 2017 but certainly one thing, it’s going to be good fun again,” said team boss Toto Wolff in a New Year’s message.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)