Mercedes delays decision on Nico Rosberg replacement

    Story highlights

    • Mercedes will not name its new driver before January 3
    • Nico Rosberg retired after winning 2016 F1 world title

    (CNN)It will be top of many Formula One drivers' Christmas lists, but the "most coveted seat in motorsport" won't be filled until 2017.

    Mercedes announced Thursday it has delayed a decision on who will replace Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg until early January.
      Following Rosberg's shock retirement -- announced just days after winning his sport's biggest prize -- Williams driver Valtteri Bottas is the leading candidate to partner three-time champion Lewis Hamilton next season.
      McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, who was Hamilton's teammate during a tumultuous 2007 season, effectively ruled himself out of a switch this week by saying he was committed to McLaren-Honda on a visit to the team's English factory.

      "Drivers from around the world would kill to have that Mercedes seat," Mario Andretti, the American 1978 F1 world champion, told CNN.
      "Let's face it, Rosberg is leaving the most coveted seat in motorsport."
      The German won his first world title at the final race of the 2016 season in Abu Dhabi but stunned the sport by retiring from racing just five days later. The 31-year-old father-of-one said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
      Mario Andretti: 5 secrets of Motorsport great
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        Mario Andretti: 5 secrets of Motorsport great


      Mario Andretti: 5 secrets of Motorsport great 02:16
      "It is tough for us to understand," added Andretti, who also won four IndyCar championships and the legendary Indianapolis 500 in the US. "But at the same time we respect it.
      "I'm sure the decision wasn't easy for him. You can twist and turn this thing in a thousand different ways but at the end of the day he has to lead his life the way he wants to.
      "He has accomplished the ultimate that was his goal and he leaves with that. Life goes on but he will be missed for sure. Being the current world champion, he has become a tremendous asset to the sport."
      Andretti continued to race competitively late into his career becoming IndyCar's oldest winner at the age of 53 and competing in the famous Le Mans 24-hour race at the age of 60.
      Asked whether he would fancy a drive in the 2017 Mercedes, the 76-year-old Andretti was quick to reply: "I'd do that in a New York minute. Put in a good word for me."