Ralf Schumacher thinks it “makes no sense” for Mercedes to think about ditching Valtteri Bottas for George Russell mid-season.
And the six-time Formula 1 race winner also suspects Sir Lewis Hamilton would not be happy with such a decision either.
Speculation over Bottas’ future has ramped up again this week since a newspaper report quoted an unnamed Mercedes engineer as saying there was some “unrest” within the team about the Finn’s performances.
Bottas has finished third twice in 2021, each time falling away from a challenging position against his team-mate Hamilton, while in the other race he was being overtaken by Russell in the Williams when the duo collided and crashed out at Imola.
The unnamed source also made reference to last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when Russell, standing in for Hamilton who was sidelined with COVID-19, outperformed Bottas in the race on his debut for Mercedes.
But while the Daily Mail also suggests Russell could replace Bottas at Mercedes before the end of this year, Schumacher believes it would be a wrong move.
“It makes no sense to swap Valtteri during the season,” the 45-year-old German told Sport1.
“Of course, Bottas is not as strong as Hamilton, few are. But compared to Imola, he clearly improved in Portugal and fought his way out of the slump. After all, he was on pole there.”
The younger brother of Michael Schumacher, the seven-time former World Champion, also thinks Hamilton would much prefer to have Bottas on the other side of the garage rather than ambitious youngster Russell as he chases an eighth title of his own.
There were suggestions earlier this year that the previously good relationship between the two Britons had deteriorated, although this was denied by Russell.
Either way, Schumacher believes replacing Bottas would be counter-productive for Mercedes in the midst of what could be a season-long battle with a revitalised Red Bull team.
“It’s still far too early in the season to draw such conclusions now,” said the former Williams, Jordan and Toyota driver, who now works as an F1 broadcaster and pundit.
“A swap would bring more unrest into the team than it would help – because Hamilton probably wouldn’t be happy to have Russell as a team-mate either.”