So Mercedes have a problem. It is a strange problem but one that a lot of people seem to be overlooking in the F1 paddock.
So many people are thinking about whether Mercedes should replace Bottas with Ocon. But it shouldn’t be a case of who will be in the drivers seat of the second Mercedes F1 car. The question really should be – who is going to take Lewis Hamilton’s place at the team when he decides to step down from F1.
Yes I know he has said that he wants to race for many more years but he is getting older and could easily do what Rosberg did and simply step back with minimal notice.
So, do Mercedes keep Bottas as a solid number 2 driver and then worry about what to do when Lewis does step down? Or do they replace Bottas with Ocon and ‘groom’ him to be the next Lewis?
Or, do they try and catch a new big fish by the name of Max Verstappen?
If they keep the system as it is then it will work to the advantage of the team. All the eggs go in the Lewis basket and Bottas becomes a solid number two in the same way that David Coulthard did for Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello did for Felipe Massa did for Fernando Alonso. It then becomes a battle in 202 between Lewis and Max in the Red Bull.
If Mercedes however managed to poach Max away from Red Bull then they get a double hit. They get arguably the next best driver on the grid who is still incredibly young and marketable. AND they take a silver bullet away from what is looking like a revitalised Red Bull Racing with Honda finally getting their act together.
Red Bull are in a bit of a tricky spot because their driver academy is looking a bit of a mess. Gasly has been incredibly poor this season. Too often I have looked at practice and qualifying times and seen him close to a second behind his team mate. And TWICE this season already, Max has lapped him. Completely unacceptable. Albon is not ready to move up to Red Bull, running the risk of doing a Gasly himself. But what happens if Max did go to Mercedes. Where does that leave Red Bull? Who can they realistically bring in who can mount a championship challenge. Alonso? Forget it! Vettel? Maybe.
But when you consider how this could mess things up with Red Bull, it is in Mercedes interests to try and grab Max while they can. Let Bottas go. He can replace Grosjean at Haas. Ocon can be lent out to Renault for a ‘three year’ contract so that by the time Lewis does call it quits, Ocon can step into his seat and become Max’s teammate.
And that is my thought’s on the matter.