The championship standings make painful reading for anyone who doesn’t wear silver.2019 F1 season, Mercedes’ race results literally couldn’t be better. Their cars have come home first and second in every race.
The only imperfection in their season so far is they’ve only scored the point for fastest lap once in the first four races. Still, 173 points from a possible 176 is not too shabby.
But one Mercedes team member will surely be feeling less fully overjoyed than his colleagues.
When Lawrence Stroll’s consortium bought Force India last year it immediately became apparent there would be no room for Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon.
He may have conclusively out-qualified his team mate Sergio Perez and contributed a respectable share of the teams’ points in his second full season of F1, but Perez had played his role in triggering Stroll’s takeover, and that made it a foregone conclusion which of the team’s drivers would be retained when the new boss’s son Lance inevitably arrived to take the other seat (contrary to what the recent Netflix F1 documentary Drive to Survive would have you believe).
With both Mercedes seats occupied, the only other Mercedes-powered berth available was at Williams. Ocon turned that down because he didn’t want to be locked into a multi-year deal.
Given that team’s appalling start to the season, this looks like a wise move. Instead Ocon opted for a year behind the scenes at Mercedes, plugging away on its simulator programme, and hoping for an opportunity to open up.
Valtteri Bottas ended last year firmly under the cosh from Lewis Hamilton, who waltzed to his fifth world championship. With Bottas on a one-year deal, Ocon understandably figured his best chance of getting into a Mercedes was to play the waiting game for a year, and be ready to step up if an opportunity arose for the 2020 F1 season.
But Bottas’s start to 2019 surely makes another contract extension for him a foregone conclusion. As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said when asked by RaceFans in China, there’s little reason to consider changing a driver line-up when they’re started the season with three one-twos. And they’ve scored another since then.
It might be a different case if Hamilton had dominantly won all four races. But he and Bottas are 2-2 on wins and 2-2 in qualifying. None of this will make happy reading for Ocon.
At present the customer-powered Mercedes options are no different to last year. So what will he be driving next year?
Perhaps “a good car” will not necessarily mean “a good Formula 1 car”. Wolff has two Formula E seats to fill later this year…
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2019 F1 season
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