Valtteri Bottas gets a champagne soaking after winning in Baku

Mercedes retains Bottas for 2020, releases Ocon to Renault

The AMG Mercedes F1 team has confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will drive for the team again in 2020 with Esteban Ocon replacing Nico Hulkenberg at Renault.

It had been widely speculated that Ocon may have been lined up to replace Bottas at Mercedes. But shortly after it was announced that Bottas would remain partnering Lewis Hamilton, the team confirmed Ocon as a Renault driver on a two-year deal.

Bottas started the season well, winning the Australian Grand Prix in emphatic style before a similarly impressive victory in Azerbaijan. Yet faced with the unenviable task of racing against Lewis Hamilton in the same team, he has drifted further behind his brilliant teammate in the drivers’ standings.

Coming second to Hamilton is no disgrace for any driver, however, and Bottas remains second in the drivers’ standings with half the season left to run.

“For 2019, we set Valtteri the challenge of coming back even stronger than we saw him in the first part of 2018 – and he has achieved that, with some really impressive performances in the early races this year,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “Although it has been his most successful first half of a championship so far, he is hungry for more and determined to keep on improving and raising his level. That’s the mindset we want from all our team members.”

Commenting on his retention, Bottas said that his goal remains winning the F1 drivers’ title and it is with Mercedes that he has the best chance of doing so.

“I am very happy and proud to be part of the team for a fourth season and wish to thank every team member and the board of Mercedes for their trust and belief in me,” said Bottas. “My performances have been getting better and better each year, and this is a great way to kick start the second half of 2019. My overall target is to become Formula One world champion. I believe that on paper, and from my experience with the team, Mercedes is the best option for me to achieve that goal in 2020.”

For Ocon’s part, the move to Renault means that the former Force India driver will form a strong partnership with Daniel Ricciardo from next season.

“First and foremost, I am very proud to become a Renault driver,” commented Ocon. “I have grown up at Enstone, starting with Lotus in 2010 and then with Renault.

“I am very attached to this team and everyone who works there; they are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me. Secondly, I am pleased that a team with big ambitions has entrusted me with the opportunity to once again demonstrate my skills at the highest level of F1. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. The confidence they have in me to help the progression of the team is a very positive pressure and I look forward to giving the best of myself.”

Where this leaves the popular Hulkenberg is, as yet, unclear although there are still rumours abound that the German could replace Romain Grosjean at Haas.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.