Formula One is back from summer break and racing at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, which means it’s time for all those summer break rumors to start coming to a head. And if you just woke up wondering what the hell is going on in the F1 paddock, you’re not alone. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered.
Valtteri Bottas Stays At Mercedes
Folks have not been kind to ol’ Valtteri lately. His lack of performance compared to teammate Lewis Hamilton has been massively critiqued, and there was a shot that he might not actually be returning to Mercedes for 2020, to be replaced by a potentially more promising talent.
That has proved not to be the case. Bottas is back, according to Motorsport.com, but it looks like his performance will once again be reevaluated at the end of next season.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff made a big to-do about how difficult it was to decide between Bottas and Esteban Ocon , the young driver who had been rumored to be taking Bottas’ place.
I have to say I think the team made a good call here. Ocon isn’t part of the 2019 F1 grid and so any decisions made regarding him would be a little too soon. Mercedes can at least guarantee its driver will have consistent experience.
But Esteban Ocon Goes To Renault
It was pretty much guaranteed that Ocon would be back in F1 next year, but we just didn’t know where. Now we do. He’ll be replacing Nico Hulkenberg at Renault for 2020.
Now this is a more reasonable place for Ocon’s big return. Renault has been struggling a bit this year, yes—but it makes sense for the French driver to ease back into the swing of things without all the pressure that would come with racing for the biggest team on the grid.
As I mentioned yesterday, I haven’t ever really understood the hype around Hulkenberg. He’s fine I guess, but he’s been just fine pretty much ever since he made his way into F1. It’s refreshing to see a promising young talent take a seat that has been consistent but largely mediocre.
That’s not to say Hulkenberg is totally out of the F1 picture yet. He’s on the shortlist of drivers that Haas F1 may be calling up should Romain Grosjean be ousted from his seat next season, according to Motorsport.com. The other was, embarrassingly, Ocon himself. So the battle for the Haas seat will be coming down to Hulkenberg and Grosjean.
Kimi Raikkonen May Sit This One Out
This one really set off a domino effect: Raikkonen has confirmed that he pulled a muscle during the off-season and may not be fit enough to compete in the race itself (the key there being “may not;” he still very well could get behind the wheel). So, Alfa Romeo had to call in their reserve driver, Marcus Ericsson.
Ericsson, though, is currently a full-time IndyCar driver. By heading out to Spa, he won’t be racing for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports this weekend at Portland. That means his seat will have to be filled for the weekend—and SPM confirms they’ve signed on Conor Daly for the ride, Motorsport.com reports.
It isn’t as though Ericsson is taking a huge leap here; his debut IndyCar season has been a rough one, and Alfa Romeo is actually in a position to score points this year. It’d be silly to not take advantage of all your options here.
That’s a hell of a lot of big news for a Thursday morning, huh?