Mercedes need to replace an "embarrassing" Valtteri Bottas when his contract expires at the end of the 2018 season, according to Jacques Villeneuve.
Bottas, 28, was comfortably outclassed by his teammate Lewis Hamilton in his first season with the Silver Arrows, coming third in the final standings, some 58 points behind the four-time world champion.
Despite being handed the strongest car and engine on the grid, Bottas could not sustain a world title fight, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel instead proving to be Hamilton's closest challenger.
Many pundits and fans saw the decision to sign Bottas as the safe option, following the tense and often race-threatening relationship between Hamilton and his former teammate Nico Rosberg, who surprisingly quit the sport after winning the World Championship in 2016.
Jacques Villeneuve, who beat Michael Schumacher to the 1997 Formula One World Championship, believes that Bottas has shown that he is not up to the challenge of living with Hamilton's pace and hunger for winning.
“Mercedes won because they retain the best engine, but only Hamilton has been able to take advantage of it,” Villeneuve told German newspaper Bild.
“Bottas's performances were almost embarrassing.
“It's a solid No 2 but nothing more.
“I would rather choose [Pascal] Wehrlein.”
The Canadian's assessment of Bottas is hard to argue with.
The Finn could only muster three race wins compared to Hamilton's nine, and one of those victories came in the final race at Abu Dhabi, when the Championship had long been decided.
After coming through Mercedes' young driver programme, Wehrlein was one of the front-runners to fill the vacant seat, but team principal Toto Wolff instead favoured the experience of Bottas.
Though Bottas was still part of a dominant Mercedes team that beat Ferrari to the constructors' title, Wolff has challenged Bottas to visibly improve in the next campaign, leaving the door ajar for Wehrlein in the process.
"That's what he has to do [challenge for the title]," Wolff told ESPN.
”We have seen some highlights in Sochi and in Austria and then after the summer Lewis came back very strong and the step that Lewis made up, Valtteri went backwards."
In a competitive paddock where teams are constantly looking out for the next young driver to fill their seats, Bottas will be looking over his shoulder in the 2018 season and knows that he needs to put forward a much stronger title fight to keep his place.
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