1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has slammed Valtteri Bottas’s performances during his maiden year at Mercedes as “almost embarrassing” and suggests Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein would be more suitable alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Villeneuve has given a negative assessment of Bottas in his first season with the German manufacturer after finishing third in the F1 drivers’ world championship behind team-mate and champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Bottas secured his maiden F1 wins and pole positions in 2017, taking three wins and four poles in total while suffering just one non-points finish all year.

Despite being re-signed by Mercedes on a one-year deal for 2018, Villeneuve believes his performances didn’t deserve a new deal having ended the season 58 points behind Hamilton. 2017 also marked the first time Mercedes failed to record a 1-2 finish in the drivers’ standings in the V6 Hybrid engine era with Bottas losing out on the runner-up spot to Vettel.

Villeneuve believes Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein would have been a more competitive team-mate to Hamilton, with the German driver likely to be out of F1 in 2018 after leaving Sauber, in his assessment of Bottas’s 2017.

“Mercedes won because they retain the best engine, but only Hamilton has been able to take advantage of it,” Villeneuve told Auto Bild. “Bottas's performances were almost embarrassing. It's a solid No. 2 but nothing more. I would rather choose Wehrlein.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has recently explained his choice to re-sign Bottas for 2018 despite suffering a mid-season dip in form – scoring just two rostrums in a run of six races between Belgium and the United States – but has set the Finn the target of battling for the F1 world title to keep his place for 2019.

“I think it’s important to see that Valtteri continues what he has done in the first half of the year, what we have seen in Brazil and what we have seen in Abu Dhabi and then it’s a no brainer,” Wolff said in Abu Dhabi. “We like working with Valtteri and with Lewis, the two fit well together, they have a good dynamic in the team and see no reason to change it.”

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