Ferrari seat would boost Bottas’ chances – Lehto

If Vettel takes his seat, Bottas is more likely to stay on at Mercedes as a reserve driver
If Vettel takes his seat, Bottas is more likely to stay on at Mercedes as a reserve driver than drive the hapless Ferrari

(GMM) Another name has been added to speculation about who might replace the departing Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari in 2020.

Although it is believed Carlos Sainz is close to a deal or may even have signed one already, others including Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi have also been mentioned.

But former F1 driver JJ Lehto thinks a fellow Finn should also be in the running – Valtteri Bottas.

"Valtteri has long been considered a second driver and Lewis Hamilton's helper at Mercedes," he told Iltalehti newspaper. "It seems that Mercedes does not have a huge amount of trust in him when no long extension contract has been offered."

Lehto thinks moving to Ferrari would be a boost to Bottas' chances of winning the title, even though it would be a de-facto number 2 seat alongside Charles Leclerc.

"Valtteri has done a good and steady job at Mercedes, but the championships have always been taken by another driver," Lehto said.

"Would it be easier to beat Leclerc than Hamilton? Leclerc has not yet experienced the pressure of being involved in a championship battle, unlike Hamilton, so that could be an advantage for Valtteri."

But in the end, Lehto says the choice will be Ferrari's alone.

"They have a lot of good options," said the former Benetton driver. "Ferrari has the ability to select the driver it wants."

Lehto also doubts Ferrari's claim in the recent press release that parting with Vettel was a joint decision. It is even rumored that Vettel himself leaked the news of his departure to German publications.

"Personally, I believe Vettel made the decision," said Lehto.

"If he says he won't continue, then the team has no choice but to agree. Then, it can be announced that he decision was mutual."