F1 expert Tony Jardine believes that Esteban Ocon is firmly in line to replace the struggling Valtteri Bottas if Mercedes chief Toto Wolff decide the Finn’s time is up.
As Lewis Hamilton prepares himself for a seventh season at Mercedes, he may be in line for a new teammate after having joined the team back in 2013.
With a sixth F1 title in sight, Hamilton will move ever closer to Michael Schumacher if he can manage to replicate 2018’s form and win a sixth title.
Bottas’ exploits helped Hamilton keep level with Juan Manuel Fangio in the World Drivers' Championship last year, so the whispers of moving him on from Tony Jardine come somewhat from left-field.
Throughout many races in the 2018 season, and under team orders, Bottas assisted Hamilton when it was certain the Finn was well out of title contention.
After making the move from Williams, Bottas has managed to finish third and fifth respectively in his two stints with Mercedes so far.
With Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen being firmly tipped to contest Hamilton in the championship, a title win from Bottas looks unlikely.
Jardine named Esteban Ocon as a potential replacement, and has plenty of inside knowledge after working for Goodyear, Lotus and Mclaren.
Jardine was also particularly harsh on Bottas and his time so far at Mercedes.
"Mercedes have got some great young drivers," Jardine exclusively told Express Sport, when asked about potential future teammates for Hamilton following his sixth F1 title win.
"You’ve got Esteban Ocon sitting there, who was kept out of a drive by other teams because of his Mercedes connections, that’s why he hasn’t got a ride for next year.
"But, for me, Bottas has been very disappointing. I can’t see him going for any longer than 2019 with Mercedes.
Jardine continued: "He just has not delivered. He’s very smooth, he’s very fast, on certain circuits like in Sochi in Russia he’s very, very quick.
"But even he has come out now and said: 'I’ve got to come out fighting [in 2019], got to be more aggressive'. But it’s too late in my book.
"It’s interesting that he’s trying to keep his profile very high because he’s just announced that he’s going to do the Arctic Lapland Rally, which is the big snow and ice rally in the Arctic tundra.
"It’s such an adventure. Mika Hakkinen’s done it. Kimi Raikkonen’s done it. It’s interesting that what they’re told by their management is: 'You can improve, not only is it great for your profile, but you can improve your skills by going ice racing, ice and snow rallying.'
"[That is] because the car’s dancing around all the time. They go and practice on the frozen lakes and all that other stuff, it’s fantastic for car control.
"Most of them have done it. Carlos Sainz Jr, obviously his dad told him to do it because he was an ex-rally champion. That’s where they hone their skills.
"[Bottas is] looking and is very determined to try and up his game for 2019. But I think Ocon will replace him for 2020."
As the 2019 season approaches, Bottas will once again join Hamilton at Mercedes for a third straight season, but according to Jardine, if Bottas’ form doesn’t improve, his spot at the team may be in jeopardy.