A Mercedes insider has allegedly claimed that the Brackley squad is growing increasingly frustrated with Valtteri Bottas who could face the axe before the end of the 2021 season.
According to a report from the Daily Mail’s Jonathan McEvoy, Mercedes are “losing faith” in Bottas, with the German outfit considering an in-season change with George Russell.
Bottas finished third in last weekend’s Portuguese GP after starting from pole and leading the early stages of the race. The 31-year-old also finished on the podium in Bahrain but retired at Imola after a high-speed crash with Russell.
The Williams charger and Mercedes protégé is widely expected to step up to the championship winning team next season, with pundits expecting the Briton to take over Bottas’ seat. But that switch could reportedly come earlier than anticipated.
“There is some unrest at the factory about Valtteri,” said a member of the Mercedes, speaking anonymously to the Daily Mail.
“He is not up to it, which was made clearer by the job we saw Russell do in Bahrain.”
Bottas was indeed outpaced by Russell in last year’s Sakhir GP, when the Williams driver substituted for Lewis Hamilton who had been sidelined by the coronavirus.
But a mid-season change at Mercedes, where stability on the driver front has been in force since 2017, would perhaps risk disrupting the strong cohesion of a team that will need to rely on all its strength to fend off the challenge of Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner doubts an in-season eviction of Bottas will come to pass.
“Valtteri has demonstrated he can drive the car very quickly,” said Horner, quoted by The Independent.
“Circumstances are always going to happen so let’s see how things pan out, but Valtteri has done a great job for Mercedes over the last few years.
“I would be surprised if they did switch Valtteri and George around mid-season.”
Sky F1’s Paul di Resta echoed Horner’s comment, but added that Mercedes would be ill-inspired to change their line-up next season if Hamilton remains on the grid.
“I think if Bottas can have a day like he had today… I know he finished third, but he was able to pressure Verstappen and he was able to pressure Lewis, he was able to qualify on pole, the team dynamic is working, is going forward,” said di Resta in Portimão.
“Yes, George is ambitious. Yes, he’s probably the future of Mercedes Benz. But that’s where the decision becomes incredibly hard for Toto [Wolff].
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“I’m sure Lewis doesn’t want the foundations of that team to change because it’s won world championships, it’s won constructors championships, for a very good reason.
“And when you see the performance of Mr. Hamilton on a day like today, if you’ve got anything that’s going to doubt that, do you take that away?
“I think Lewis if he’s wise, will probably give Valtteri a lot of support, and show the team that he is a team player, absolutely a team player.”
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