Before the break, Mercedes-AMG F1 boss Toto Wolff made it clear he had a big – but simple – decision to make: to either stick with the Finn and re-sign him for 2020 or twist in favour of highly rated reserve Esteban Ocon, who waits hungrily in the wings.
As you read this, it’s very possible that Bottas already knows his fate, which is expected to be made public at Spa. If he’s kept his drive, he can count himself lucky. Although he kicked off the season ‘angry’ with renewed determination to take on Hamilton, Bottas has found himself ground down once again by the Briton’s incessant ability to deliver on race day.
Merc’s number two is fast, but there’s no sign that he has a championship in him – so why should the best team in F1 persevere with him for a fourth season?
Stability? Certainly he’s been a calm presence at the team since replacing Nico Rosberg in 2017 and has rubbed along well with Hamilton – but mainly because Lewis has known that over a season Bottas is not a threat. Choosing Ocon would be an investment in the future, offering a golden chance to a driver who Wolff will hope might have it in him to lead the team one day. While Hamilton has suggested he could race for at least another five seasons and is showing no sign of decline, it’s only logical to prepare for life post-Lewis.
But if time is up for Bottas, it’s likely he still has an F1 future if he wants it. Guenther Steiner at Haas or Cyril Abiteboul at Renault will surely have already made contact with him. Bottas is still a grand prix driver of quality, a proven winner and a man who understands what it takes to score points. In short, he’s a huge asset.
The question is, would he have the motivation to push on after losing the best seat in F1? Bottas himself has admitted he has already considered ‘Plan B’ – but after Mercedes, there’s only one direction a career is likely to head.