The fight to stay in the race

August 21 - 27 , 2019

Gulf Weekly The fight to stay in the race

Who will be driving alongside Lewis Hamilton on the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team for 2020? Will the 29-year-old Finnish Valtteri Bottas continue racing in Hamilton’s shadow or will he take a backseat to Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Ocon?

Team boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that Bottas is in a straight fight with the 22-year-old French man for the seat with a decision due to be made during the summer break.

Bottas is already working on a plan B just in case the conclusion doesn’t go his way. This back-and-forth has affected his racing abilities causing him to misjudge when to take risks and how much of it is needed, which was evident in his Hungary race.

So who should it be?

Let’s not forget that the Hamilton-Bottas partnership has continued the team’s streak of constructors’ championship titles. Plus, Mercedes relationship between these two drivers is clearly healthier than it was when Nico Rosberg was Hamilton’s team mate. Bottas may not be winning as many races as Roseberg was but at least he and Hamilton are solid.

Where does Ocon stand in all this? He has made a case for himself that he is potentially as quick as Bottas – but a tougher prospect on the track. Frankly speaking, Ocon’s progress up the single-seater ladder hasn’t been fruitful one. It’s slower than what was expected of him.

After winning the European F3 title in 2014, he moved sideways into GP3 instead of up to GP2. Regardless, he won that title. His first F1 chance came in mid-2016 and proved himself ready for the opportunity during that period. He was the quicker of the two Force India drivers last year and showed his willingness to face Max Verstappen on the track – the driver who is emerging as Mercedes’ most challenging opponent.

That being said, both sides will simply have to wait. Either way, the team doesn’t know whether Hamilton will even stay after 2020. Perhaps now is the time to give the youth a chance.

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