Ralf Schumacher has suggested Valtteri Bottas‘ angry radio message in the French Grand Prix was one of a man who knows his Mercedes time is up.
Bottas endured yet another race he would want to forget, calling for a second pit-stop to change his ageing hard tyres in order to stand a chance of fending off Sergio Perez for the final podium placing.
But his pleas fell on deaf ears, he was left out and had no answer when Perez passed him for third position, making it a one-three for Red Bull as Max Verstappen caught Lewis Hamilton to claim victory.
The Finn made his annoyance clear over the team radio, saying: “Why the f*** did no-one listen to me when I said it was going to be a two-stopper? F****** hell.”
Team principal Toto Wolff insisted he had been pleased by Bottas’ feistiness, his response being: “I find it great. Finally he starts to criticise! He’s finally letting it out and it’s a joy to watch!”
Usually mild-mannered and the ultimate team player, having been involved in four Constructors’ World Championship victories, Bottas appears to be changing his tune as his fortunes decline and speculation intensifies about his Mercedes future.
Links between George Russell and a Mercedes seat are strengthening continually – and former F1 racer Schumacher suspects Bottas may now be shooting from the hip in the knowledge that his days are very much numbered.
“I am amazed he dares to make such a radio message – in his place I would be very quiet at the moment,” Schumacher told Sky Germany.
“He probably knows he’s gone anyway. Whoever makes mistakes like he did, sorry – something like that doesn’t belong in the team.
“You need a strong team-mate to get strategies to work. He partly did that, but then again not well enough. His tyres deteriorated faster than with Lewis.”
Schumacher thinks last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix, in which Russell outshone Bottas when standing in for Covid sufferer Hamilton, provided enough evidence that a change should be made for next season.
“[For me] we would have been talking about it long ago,” said the German. “Russell is sitting right there. After his race last year, that would have been clear to me [to replace Bottas].
“George Russell is a driver who can make more of a difference than Bottas is currently.”