Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo: Time to make way for juniors!

Oliver Bearman made a great debut at Ferrari, didn’t he, opening the eyes of all team managers? Oscar Piastri performed the same last season, didn’t he? And wouldn’t Formula 1 teams recognize that young juniors should have an opportunity to compete in the highest division of motorsport, given the presence of Theo Pourchaire, Felipe Drugovich, and Andrea Kimi Antonelli? Particularly when a growing number of experienced drivers appear to be nearing the end of their road?

2020 was the year. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were leading the Formula 1 field. 13 of the 17 Grands Prix were won by them. Even though it was only four years ago, it seems like a lifetime ago. Due in part to their powerful cars, which is always the case in Formula 1, two drivers who excelled back then are now primarily midfield fillers.

Hamilton can not have fun at the moment

Seven-time world champion Hamilton must find it extremely painful to admit that he began the season in seventh place in Bahrain and ninth place in Saudi Arabia. The British driver even finished behind 18-year-old Formula 1 rookie Oliver Bearman in Jeddah. Consider Bottas, a dependable driver with ten Formula 1 victories despite never being a true talent. The Finn’s best finish this season has been between 19th and 17th. How depressing is that?

Observing Hamilton, Bottas, and Daniel Ricciardo struggling right now makes one wonder why these drivers are still competing in Formula 1. The seasoned drivers no longer have the speed and there’s no indication that they enjoy what they do. Many young talents are eager to showcase their abilities and are currently waiting in the wings. Only because F1 teams would rather stick with well-known brands do they not get the opportunity.

What keeps F1 teams from giving young people a chance?

Anyhow, why? Teams are hesitant to introduce new players to the game, to start. After all, the question of a Pourchaire or Bearman’s development—particularly its speed—is always present. An F1 team cannot afford a misfire or a driver that takes a long time to learn the craft, especially in a sport where the financial stakes are so high. In this instance, Sauber (the F1 team representing Stake) has identified exactly what they stand to gain from the driver by selecting someone like Bottas.

That’s mediocrity in this instance, someone who raises an eyebrow now and then. That may mean keeping a junior like Pourchaire off the field, but it still works out better than wondering if someone gives in to the pressures of Formula 1. Furthermore, drivers like Hamilton and Ricciardo are commercial gold mines because they are well-known figures and attractive posters for sponsors. Hamilton is a shirt salesman. Neither does Felipe Drugovich.

Time to say ‘goodbye’

Ricciardo is aiming for a position at Red Bull Racing, while Hamilton has a contract with Ferrari for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. After they have completely taken over Sauber in 2026, Bottas says he would like to continue the adventure at Audi. It’s a shame, because just like in any sport, the time comes to say goodbye. The outcomes of the first few weeks demonstrate that for these three drivers, this is the right time.

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