Mercedes is still working on trying to secure seats for Esteban Ocon and George Russell in Formula 1 for next season but is prepared to wait for the right opportunity.
Ocon has been impressive since making his debut for Manor in 2016, but looks set to lose his drive at Force India at the end of this season with Lance Stroll expected to partner Sergio Perez. That move is due to the takeover of Force India by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, and while F2 championship leader Russell was being earmarked for a seat at Williams, the loss of Stroll could have financial implications.
With Haas set to retain its current line-up and Toro Rosso not an option for a Mercedes youngster, Toto Wolff admits seats are in short supply.
“There are many good drivers who merit a drive in Formula 1, both young ones and more experienced ones, but at the moment cockpits are a limited commodity,” Wolff said. “Both Esteban and George certainly deserve to be in Formula 1; we are still working on options and will carefully decide what’s best for them. If that means having to play the long game, then we will continue to prepare and develop them.”
While Ocon and Russell face uncertain futures, Valtteri Bottas has also been struggling of late, having yet to win a race this season while Lewis Hamilton enjoys a strong championship lead.
“For every racing driver, that’s a very difficult situation to be in because everything you dream about and everything you work for is winning the World Championship. When you realize you’re not in the hunt anymore, that’s very difficult to handle. But Valtteri has shown that he has the speed, the talent and the work ethic to win in a Mercedes.
“He has always been a team player and that is one of his greatest character traits. Valtteri could have won races this year, but the odds were against him. However, luck isn’t just a one-way street; and I know that Valtteri has every ingredient it needs to win at this level. He just needs to keep working hard to improve and trust that the tables will turn for him.”