Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has suggested that Esteban Ocon is a contender for Valtteri Bottas’ Formula 1 seat with Mercedes.
Ocon is a member of Mercedes’ junior driver academy, but missed out on a seat in the 2019 season after Force India was taken over by Lawrence Stroll, who subsequently replaced the Frenchman with his son, Lance. Without a full-time seat, he currently acts as a reserve driver for Mercedes.
Bottas, meanwhile, started the season superbly as he won two out of the opening four races in Australia and Azerbaijan. But, since then he hasn’t claimed a victory as Lewis Hamilton continues to open up the gap as leader in the championship race.
Wolff appreciates the efforts of both drivers in their respective roles, and refuses to confirm any speculation about who could partner Hamilton next year.
"As we all know it was an unfortunate situation last year that Esteban fell between the chairs," the Mercedes boss said ahead of the German GP. "He could have chosen between two seats and in the end nothing came out.
"From our perspective everyone knows about his driving capabilities for Mercedes. Valtteri is showing some very strong performances and merits the seat but equally Esteban has shown that in the past and is a great addition to the team.
"He contributes a lot a lot behind closed doors, he drives the sim overnight on race weekends, he comes in here Saturday and gives us input and he is a great kid overall.
"Putting a Mercedes young driver in the car would be interesting as well."
Ocon is a driver in demand, however, and has been linked with Haas and Renault this year.
Wolff said: "There is interest for Esteban among other teams and we need to carefully make a decision for ourselves and with the other interested parties, not only for our own benefit but also for Esteban’s benefit.
"If it would be that we were taking a decision in favour of Valtteri it clearly also means that somebody else would continue to develop him [Ocon] and would mean we would lose our hand for a year or two or more on Esteban. These are the consequences of that decision."
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