Hungary witnessed an epic racing and strategic duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with Hamilton coming out on top after rolling the dice with a second pit stop. In doing so Hamilton was on fresher tyres for the last twenty or so laps, overtaking Verstappen in the closing laps as the Red Bull’s tyres degraded to virtually nothing. But where was Valtteri Bottas in all this? You would have thought that after securing a front row start after a successful qualifying sessions he would be involved in the scrap for a podium place, yet Vettel was the third driver standing on the podium at the end of the race.
Bottas was allegedly given both the German and the Hungarian Grand Prix in order to secure his seat at Mercedes for 2020. Unfortunately for Bottas these were his two worst performances of the season so far. In Germany he crashed his car in the final few laps losing his second place, resulting in no points whatsoever. On the following weekend in Hungary, Bottas had his front wing damaged when fighting for position with Leclerc, forcing him to take an early pit stop in order to change his front wing. When Bottas came out the pits he found himself at the back of the pack having to fight his way back up the field to finish in a disappointing eight place.
It is safe to say that the two opportunities that Toto Wollf, the Mercedes team principal, gave Bottas to impress him has slipped through the fingers of the Mercedes driver. His run of poor results mean that Bottas is now 67 points behind Hamilton and only 7 points ahead of Verstappen, who seems to have really found his feet in the Red Bull car recently. So, what does this mean for the future of Bottas? Will he be forced to leave Mercedes? And if so, who will come in to replace him?
Rumours have already surfaced that the driver is set to be replaced for the 2020 season. Some suggest that Esteban Ocon, the Mercedes reserve driver, will take his place. But putting such a rookie driver in such a high-pressure seat is a huge risk for Toto Wolff and perhaps not one that he is willing to take. Others believe that Daniel Ricciardo is set to take his place, as supposedly the Renault driver has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave his current team if Ferrari of Mercedes come calling. But once again Ricciardo hasn’t had the best Hungarian and German Grand Prix, having to retire in Germany and struggling to fight his way into points from the back of the grid in Hungary.
Bottas has claimed that if Mercedes do decide to part ways with him then he has a plan B and even a plan C in place. For me this seems like he has already accepted his fate, planning for a future away from the might of the Silver Arrows. The fact that Bottas seems convinced that his future is not at Mercedes surely tells us that we are unlikely to see him driving there next season. Perhaps the more pressing question for the future of Bottas is not whether he will be at Mercedes next season, but what team he will be moving to for 2020?
Where do you think Bottas will be next season? Will he be at Mercedes or somewhere else? And if so, where will he be?
Let me know in the comments below!