Valtteri Bottas: 2019 has been my best year ever in F1
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Former Formula One driver Jolyon Palmer believes Valtteri Bottas’ time at Mercedes has come to an end and that the team ‘can’t ignore’ what George Russell did for them at the Sakhir Grand Prix last season.
With Lewis Hamilton seemingly confirmed for next season with the seven-time world champions, speculation has been swirling surrounding the second seat alongside the Briton, a seat currently occupied by Bottas.
Hamilton and Bottas are both out of contract come the end of the season, and although the Stevenage-born driver looks set to seal the deal at Mercedes for at least another year, Bottas seems to have been left in limbo, with the ever-growing presence of Russell waiting in the wings.
The Mercedes junior driver has been heavily linked with the seat after impressing while deputising for Hamilton last season in Bahrain, with his three-year deal coming to an end with Williams at the end of the year.
Russell qualified second fastest just behind his team-mate Bottas during the Sakhir Grand Prix, and managed to sweep past the Finn on the opening lap.
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He was on course to win on debut, however, due to a pitstop blunder, and a puncture, he had to settle with P9, but his performance sent ripples throughout the paddock.
Bottas’ performance this season hasn’t much helped his cause with his worst start to a Mercedes season, currently sitting fifth in the standings, 72 points behind championship leader Max Verstappen.
However, for Bottas, he’s adamant his bad start bears no reflection on any potential delays to contract talks, and it’s currently all business as usual at Mercedes.
Yet Palmer believes it’s too little too late for the 31-year-old, and Mercedes must now invest in the future of F1.
“Bottas has had a good shout at Mercedes, he’s been a good team player at Mercedes for long enough,” Palmer told BBC F1 commentator Jack Nicholls on BBC Radio 5 live.
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“But he will not be there next year, in my opinion, I’m going to say it, Russell is going to be in that car.
“Because you can see, the Bahrain thing maybe is playing on everyone’s mind including Bottas, and Russells, when you consider what happened in Imola and the fallout.
“You can’t ignore what happened in Bahrain when Russell was basically ahead of him on his debut with the team.
Last time out, Bottas was left fuming over team radio after surrendering second place to Verstappen in the final few laps at Paul Ricard as Red Bull opted for a two-stop strategy which ultimately paid off with the Dutchman securing victory in France over Lewis Hamilton.
After the move, Bottas was heard shouting to his race engineer, Riccardo Musconi: “Why the f*** does nobody listen to me when I say it’s going to be a two-stopper? F***ing hell.”
And the former Renault driver believes the cracks are starting to show at Mercedes.
“But the fallout, there’s tension between team and driver that’s coming in more and more,” continued Palmer.
“Whether it’s Bottas demanding he was on a two-stop and telling everyone it was unacceptable or Toto Wolff indicating that maybe Bottas was at fault for that Monaco wheel pit error.
“There’s finger-pointing on both sides, they’re not happy and you can hear it this year.
“There’s needle coming in now between Bottas and Mercedes, it’s clear to see there’s no more ‘Valtteri is doing a good job for the team, we’re happy with the team harmony,’ the mood seems to have shifted.
“When Russell is doing a good job at Williams, this is his third year now at Williams, his first year was very good, the second year he built on it then he had that Sakhir performance, and this year again he’s driving the wheels off it.
“He can not stay at Williams next year, he’s got to get promoted, this is his time, it’s going to happen.”
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