Mercedes could be considering a shock wildcard pick for their second driver seat next season.
Valtteri Bottas’ contract expires at the end of this season, and it looks like he is on his way out. That is not confirmed yet, and there is a chance he could sign a new deal. But the main narrative seems to be George Russell getting the seat next season.
According to former world champion Jacques Villeneuve, however, there could be a shock option aiming for the second driver spot. He believes that it won’t be Bottas or Russell, but Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
Speaking to Italian newspaper Libero Quotidiano, Villeneuve gave his thoughts on the Mercedes second driver saga, and backed Stroll to succeed Bottas.
“For me, (Bottas) could move to Aston Martin, instead of Lance Stroll, who would go to Mercedes,” Villeneuve said.
“Stroll senior’s dream is to see his son win championships. He’s very close to Toto Wolff, and Toto needs a place for Valtteri. Hamilton certainly doesn’t want to have Russell as a teammate. It’s better to have someone like Bottas, who won’t bother him,” he opined.
Maybe, maybe not
Villeneuve is known for his hot takes and his unpopular opinions. This one makes sense in some ways, but it also doesn’t seem practical. If Mercedes can try a Bottas-Stroll swap, it could work for both parties. Stroll will get to race at a top team, while Bottas can continue racing at a competitive one. The good relationship between Mercedes and Aston Martin could also help ensure the success of the deal.
However, the obvious question is why Mercedes doesn’t stick with Bottas if they want a driver who wouldn’t bother him. They do not need to sign Stroll to make him play the role Bottas does so well. Moreover, Russell is one for the future and if Mercedes doesn’t go for him now, he might make the switch to another team.
Realistically, then, Stroll in the Mercedes second seat is something only Villeneuve might be considering. The two obvious choices are sticking with Bottas or welcoming Russell. As it stands, a third option looks unlikely to take shape. If it does, we will be the first ones to acknowledge Villeneuve’s genius.