F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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Lewis Hamilton is likely applying “internal pressure” to his Mercedes team to retain driver Valtteri Bottas as Toto Wolff looks to make his decision for the 2022 season, according to former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley. The debate over who will accompany Hamilton at Mercedes is sure to be a hot topic during the summer break.
Hamilton himself is already committed to the team until the end of 2023 but there have been serious question marks over Bottas’ position on the team. George Russell, who drove for Mercedes as a junior, has been the subject of several rumours about the potential vacancy.
Speaking on his own podcast, Priestley remarked: “I honestly am not sure they have made that decision yet. It’s a difficult one.
“There is probably some internal pressure from Lewis to keep Valtteri- not because I think he fears George Russell- but to keep the status-quo.
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“That is a system that has worked for years, they have been very successful as a team.
“But from a Mercedes perspective, they will be thinking a bit longer-term and George Russell is undoubtedly looking like the future for them.
“Maybe getting him in the car now, having a year or two alongside Lewis, will be the perfect way to hand over the baton when Lewis eventually does call it a day, and then in theory Russell would be the one to take it into the future.
“I believe they will make the decision during the summer break. Whether they communicate that to the wider world at the end of the break we will find out shortly.”
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At the Hungarian Grand Prix, the last race before the three-week pause in the season, Bottas caused carnage as he made an error on the first corner and took out Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez. In stark comparison, Russell won his first points as a Williams driver.
Priestley thinks such errors by Bottas may force Wolff’s hand.
He continued: “Unfortunately, Valtteri has made a number of costly errors over the last year or two and if you add those up, you have to say George might be a better prospect from a performance perspective.”
Wolff has previously spoken on the matter and made it clear that Hamilton has made no attempt to sway the decision. He said: “Lewis is okay with both scenarios and he understands the pros and cons that speak for Valtteri and George.
“Lewis has never tried to influence the decision and he has no preference as to who should be in the car.
“He likes the relationship with Valtteri, and we know it too. But he never said that he would like this or that best.”
Formula 1 returns on August 27 with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
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