Toto Wolff 'wrestling within myself' over 2020 Mercedes driver choice

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he has been “wrestling within myself” over the identity of Lewis Hamilton’s 2020 Formula 1 team-mate.

Hamilton has a contract which runs through the end of next year but Mercedes is in the process of evaluation whether to retain Valtteri Bottas or promote reserve driver Esteban Ocon.

Bottas has raced for Mercedes since the start of 2017 and currently holds second position in the standings, 41 points behind Hamilton, having won in Australia and Azerbaijan.

Ocon raced for Manor and Force India from mid-2016 to 2018 but was left without a 2019 seat, and instead took up a Mercedes reserve role, having been part of the marque’s junior scheme since 2015.

“It’s a question between Esteban and Valtteri,” said Wolff.

“We’ve been discussing it for a long time within the team and I’ve been wrestling within myself on what is the right thing for the team and what is the right thing for the drivers.

“If we were to have only one of them it would be a no-brainer to have them in the car.

“And in a way both deserve the seat.

“Esteban because he has been in tough situations and he certainly has the motivation and the energy and the talent to be in a Mercedes.

“On the other side Valtteri has the experience and has proven again how fast he can go.

“And he’s tremendously supportive in developing the team together with Lewis, there’s lots of pros, some cons.

“In the end what we decided is to really don’t think about it more, and we did already, wait for the Budapest weekend to pass, stick our heads together over the summer and come to a decision that is best for the team and best for both, because we care for both.”

Ocon was set to move to Renault for 2019, before the manufacturer recruited Daniel Ricciardo to partner Nico Hulkenberg, but the German is out of contract at the end of the year.

Ocon has been tipped to switch to Renault and Wolff said Mercedes would not stand in the youngster’s way should the right opportunity elsewhere arise.

“If you can’t provide an opportunity for a young driver then you’ve got to make compromises,” said Wolff.

“And certainly I wouldn’t… sabotage Esteban’s career by blocking him and not releasing him to drive in Formula 1.

“And he is a great personality as he said he would understand if we were to do this and if needed he’d stay in the Mercedes family and do something else with us.

“But I think he must be given the opportunity in Formula 1, either with us or with another team.”