The Formula 1 silly season is upon us again just after three races of the season, with Valtteri Bottas reportedly in danger of facing the axe before the end of the year.
The Finn has been part of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team since the start of the 2017 season having replaced outgoing world champion Nico Rosberg, who retired following his title win in 2016.
According to the Daily Mail, there are doubts about Bottas' ability to contribute to the team's success this season and there is a high possibility that he could be replaced by current Williams driver George Russell before the end of the ongoing campaign.
Bottas has struggled to match Hamilton's pace and consistency in each of the seasons they have spent together. The Finnish racer finished third, fifth, second and second in the championship despite having the most dominant car on the grid.
After three races in 2021, Bottas continues to struggle to match the high standards set by Hamilton. The 31-year-old has failed to finish higher than third, with Red Bull Racing mounting a serious challenge against Mercedes. Bottas is currently fourth in the Drivers' championship standings having fallen behind the impressive Lando Norris in a less competitive McLaren.
After a disappointing race in Portugal, where Bottas started on pole position but ended up finishing third, an engineer with the Mercedes team spoke about the "unrest at the factory" with regards to the Finn. This led reports to suggest that Russell could be drafted in sooner rather than later.
"There is some unrest at the factory about Valtteri," the engineer speaking anonymously said. "He is not up to it, which was made clearer by the job we saw Russell do in Bahrain."
Russell, a junior Mercedes driver, remains highly regarded within the team and he enhanced his reputation when he stepped in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 when the Briton came down with Covid-19.
The current Williams driver drove a stellar race and should have stood on the top step of the podium if not for a botched pit-stop and a late tyre puncture. Russell has been tipped to replace Bottas in 2022, but if the Finn continues to dither reports claim that Mercedes could pull a Red Bull and make the change midway through the campaign.
Bottas, however, does have the full backing of team principal Toto Wolff, with whom the buck stops when it comes to making the call on the team's driver lineup.