May 29 (GMM) A former F1 driver thinks Renault is more likely to sign Fernando Alonso for 2021 and beyond than Valtteri Bottas.
The French team is looking for a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo, with boss Cyril Abiteboul admitting losing the Australian to McLaren is “disappointing”.
Bottas is clearly an option, former F1 driver JJ Lehto admits, amid reports that the current Mercedes driver could lose his seat to George Russell.
“Valtteri has always had one year contracts, which feels like there is no complete trust and faith in him,” the former Benetton driver told Iltalehti newspaper.
JJ Lehto is therefore predicting a crucial year for the 30-year-old.
“Now the results on track are not as important as before, so I hope he has a good year on the negotiating table instead,” he said.
“It’s worth pointing out that Valtteri has been good at Mercedes. A good runner-up who has been able to win races, help a manufacturer team win championships and give a good challenge to Lewis Hamilton,” Lehto added.
There are rumours Bottas’ management has also been in talks with Red Bull, but Lehto thinks a move to the energy drink stable for a “completely outside guy” is unlikely.
There is also the issue of Renault’s future in Formula 1.
“As a car manufacturer, Renault is in really big trouble,” Lehto said. “It’s not at all clear that they will continue in Formula 1 at all.
“The team has not had the results in many years so joining Renault would mean building up the team more, but you have to take into consideration the financial problems.”
As for Renault’s perspective, Lehto thinks the Enstone team will have a different favourite.
“Alonso is a political and difficult person, but still a two-time world champion for Renault,” he said. “Valtteri is completely a Mercedes driver with no championship. So I think that’s pretty clear cut.”