Villeneuve questions Mercedes’ back-up plan

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Former Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has questioned why Mercedes are contemplating whether or not to replace Valtteri Bottas at the end of the season.

So far in 2019, the Finn has won two of the opening 12 races and is currently second in the drivers’ standings. However, none of the wins have come in the last eight GP events, with the last coming in Azerbaijan.

He is currently 62 points adrift of team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ rankings, with his recent disappointing performances creating speculation that he could be dropped for 2020. Esteban Ocon and George Russell were the contending names mentioned, with Williams saying the latter is out of the question.

As for Ocon, Villeneuve thinks it would be a mistake for him to replace Bottas.

“Why would you do that?” the Canadian responded to Formule 1 when asked bout the driver switch.

“Of course, Mercedes must continue with Bottas. How many times have they achieved P1 and P2 this season?

“Bottas is regularly faster than Hamilton, he scores his points. If he were to be half a second slower than Lewis in every race, like last year, then ok, you can replace him. But that’s not the case.”

The main reason for Villeneuve’s dismissal of Ocon is that he thinks the former Racing Point man hasn’t yet proved himself talented enough to driver for a top team like Mercedes.

“He hasn’t proven himself yet,” the 1997 world champion added.

“I don’t know how good he is and I would never take that risk.”

Top seats in F1 are difficult to come by. Ferrari’s line-up seems set for 2020, Red Bull remain determined to promote from within and the resurgent McLaren have confirmed Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris will remain, leaving Bottas short of top-level options if Mercedes opt for Ocon.

Renault may have a seat next to Daniel Ricciardo available, Haas could have a vacancy, but is Bottas thinking even further afield?

The Finn was back at the wheel this week, taking to his third rally test in less than a year.

Bottas drove in the Arctic Rally in pre-season and has already driven the WRC-spec Toyota in the meantime. This time he was back in a Ford Fiesta, which he drove in the Arctic Rally.

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