Ralf Schumacher believes Valtteri Bottas’ career is on the line and that a poor showing in the Abu Dhabi GP could end not only his time at Mercedes but also in F1.
Bottas had a new team-mate last time out at the Sakhir Grand Prix with Mercedes junior George Russell replacing Lewis Hamilton after the World Champion tested positive.
Although Bottas insisted ahead of the race weekend that it was not a “showdown”, many feel it was exactly that.
And one Bottas lost.
The Finn lost the lead of the grand prix to Russell at the start and was five seconds behind the Brit when a botched pit stop ruined both drivers’ races.
Restarting after a Safety Car, Russell easily stormed past the Finn as he chased back towards the front of the field while Bottas lost several positions.
Russell’s chances of taking the win were dealt a second blow with a puncture that meant he finished P9 to Bottas’ P8.
The outcome audition, though, was without a doubt in Russell’s favour.
So much so that former F1 driver Schumacher reckons another disappointing showing in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP could see Mercedes drop Bottas in favour of signing Russell.
“Maybe it will depend on the last race,” Motorsport-total.com quoted the German as having said.
“But if he has another race weekend like last, the risk is too great.
“His performance in the last races was really bad.
“You can’t go into the next year with a driver like that and expect to collect points to win the Constructors’ Championship.”
He added: “I think he’s broken and I believe that after the weekend that George Russell showed, no one at Mercedes will want to take the risk again.
“I think the pendulum has already swung in one direction.
“I would almost be surprised if he could rehabilitate himself this weekend.”
Should Bottas lose his Mercedes drive to Russell that would open up a seat at Williams, the Finn’s first F1 team.
Schumacher, though, questions whether the Grove team would even want Bottas.
“The question is,” he said, “does Williams want this Valtteri Bottas or not?
“I suspect it will mean the end of his career.
“I don’t think anyone is saying ‘yeah!’at the moment. If Mercedes does replace him now, they have good reason to do so.”