Ex F1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve has never been afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, and his prediction of who will drive alongside Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes Formula 1 team for the 2022 Championship is rather astonishing.
In an interview he gave to an Italian daily last week, which has been picked up by several specialist websites over the past few days, the former Formula One champion believes that Quebecer Lance Stroll could be the successor to Finn Valtteri Bottas.
“In my opinion, [Bottas] could move to Aston Martin instead of Stroll, who would join Mercedes,” Villeneuve told Librero Quotidiano. His father’s (Lawrence Stroll) dream is to see his son win championships.
Lawrence Stroll owns the Aston Martin team and, ideally, has ambitions to win a championship with it. But there is every reason to believe that he wants to achieve this with his son, no matter the team.
“His father is very close to Toto Wolff and Toto needs a place for Valtteri. Hamilton certainly doesn’t want George Russell as a team-mate. It’s better to have someone like Bottas who doesn’t get in his way.”
Hamilton recently signed a two-year contract extension with Mercedes, while the identity of his teammate next season has yet to be revealed. Bottas’ place at Mercedes is looking increasingly uncertain as his season has been up and down, although he currently sits fourth in the drivers’ championship.
Bottas was forced to retire in Emilia-Romagna, Monaco and Hungary and had to settle for 12th place in Azerbaijan. In Hungary, he crashed at the first turn of the first lap, ruining the race for several competitors, including the two Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen – then leader of the drivers’ championship – and Sergio Perez.
Mercedes would not be looking for a docile teammate for Hamilton, who is likely to be in his final Formula One years at the age of 36. Villeneuve said at the end of April that Bottas was the worst teammate Hamilton could have. He also said he believed Bottas was in his final season with Mercedes.
While I don’t believe in the Bottas / Stroll swop, I do believe that Wolff is trying to place Bottas in a team that can’t harm M-B, with the most likely a return to Williams. The last thing Wolff wants is Bottas on the open-market and potentially moving to Red Bull. Bottas is in my opinion a better driver that Perez and he takes all the M-B intel he has to them.