Formula 1 expert Tony Jardine has predicted that Mercedes will run out of patience with Valtteri Bottas at the end of 2019 and will promote Esteban Ocon to the hot seat beside five-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas has it all to do this year, his stats versus Hamilton were dismal and looking over his shoulder, in the reserve role with Mercedes, is heir apparent Esteban Ocon.
Jardine an F1 veteran who worked with Goodyear, Brabham, McLaren and Lotus, told Express Sport, “Mercedes have got some great young drivers. You’ve got Esteban Ocon sitting there, who was kept out of a drive by other teams because of his Mercedes connections, that’s why he hasn’t got a ride for next year.
“But, for me, Bottas has been very disappointing. I can’t see him going for any longer than 2019 with Mercedes. He just has not delivered. He’s very smooth, he’s very fast, on certain circuits like in Sochi in Russia he’s very, very quick.”
“But even he has come out now and said: I’ve got to come out fighting [in 2019], got to be more aggressive. But it’s too late in my book.”
Jardine sees method in the madness of Mercedes allowing Bottas to compete in one of the toughest rallies in the world, “It’s interesting that he’s trying to keep his profile very high because he’s just announced that he’s going to do the Arctic Lapland Rally, which is the big snow and ice rally in the Arctic tundra.”
“It’s such an adventure. Mika Hakkinen’s done it. Kimi Raikkonen’s done it. It’s interesting that what they’re told by their management is: ‘You can improve, not only is it great for your profile, but you can improve your skills by going ice racing, ice and snow rallying.’
“[That is] because the car’s dancing around all the time. They go and practice on the frozen lakes and all that other stuff, it’s fantastic for car control.
“Most of them have done it. Carlos Sainz Jr, obviously his dad told him to do it because he was an ex-rally champion. That’s where they hone their skills.
“[Bottas is] looking and is very determined to try and up his game for 2019. But I think Ocon will replace him for 2020,” envisions Jardine.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has been very patient with Bottas as the current arrangement does no rock the boat provided Hamilton does the winning and the #77 car helps win the constructors’ title.
With Ocon the last man standings in the Silly Season game of musical chairs and forced to watch from the sidelines next season, Wolff was quick to assure the Mercedes junior that he will be in a competitive car in 2020.
Jardine’s prediction is hardly revolutionary in concept, changing Hamilton’s teammate will depend on how much the Mercedes chiefs want to rock the boat, for now champ Hamilton and wingman Bottas are working in harmony and winning. Why change a winning team?
Big Question: Why would Mercedes want to change a proven winning team?