1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve predicts Mercedes will replace Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas with Esteban Ocon during the 2019 season. Bottas currently has a 12-month contract with the Silver Arrows, with Ocon as its reserve driver.
Bottas was 5th in the 2018 drivers championship and Villeneuve thinks that if he has a poor start to the 2019 season then he could be sacked and replaced by the 22-year-old. Ocon joined Formula 1 in 2016 with Manor Racing and is part of the Mercedes Benz Driver Development Programme.
The Frenchman also holds the all-time record for the most consecutive finishes from the start of his career, with 27. Villeneuve told Sky Italia: “I think there is a possibility that Bottas will be replaced by Esteban Ocon during the 2019 season."
Ocon had previously stated: “Definitely I will be around the F1 paddock and trying to get as much mileage as possible in a Formula 1 car next year. Me and Mercedes, we see great opportunities for me to come back in 2020. So hopefully that will be the case and hopefully I will be back even stronger than I am now”.
Toto Wolff said: “We hope to do the odd test with him (Ocon), we are looking at pre-season and in-season but it’s not sorted out yet. He will do a lot of time in the simulator to make sure that he is ready”.
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing