Hamilton included in 2020 driver decision as Mercedes weigh up options

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Lewis Hamilton is being included in the process to decide who will race alongside him at Mercedes in 2020.

Before the summer break, speculation ramped up as to whether the world champions would stick with Valtteri Bottas or if Esteban Ocon would be given a chance.

While comments seemed to point in the Frenchman's favour, Hamilton has previously spoken highly of his relationship with Bottas and Mercedes has confirmed his view will be factored in.

"We make this decision solely on the basis of the interest of the team," team boss Toto Wolff stated to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

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"But Lewis has been with us for a long time, so, yes, I submitted our narrow list to him, asking for his opinion.

"He thinks exactly like us, both of them deserve to be his teammate."

This week, 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve suggested it would be a big risk for Mercedes to choose Ocon, particularly given that he has spent 2019 on the sidelines.

However, Wolff pointed to recent examples to suggest experience isn't always essential.

"There is the great theme of giving a young person a chance," he said. "In the recent history of F1, only two drivers immediately shone with a top team: Lewis Hamilton with McLaren and Max Verstappen with Red Bull.

"The latter was very good at giving the Dutchman the necessary time to grow, first in Toro Rosso and then for two years at Red Bull. At Ferrari or Mercedes, there is very high pressure, having said that, they both deserve the place."

Indeed, speaking to Formula1.com, the Austrian pointed to how Bottas has responded to a tough 2018 by understanding the privileged position he holds.

“He suffered a lot at the end of the year as his performances did not match his expectations, but also we did not really give him a chance as it was clear that everything had to be put behind Lewis to win the championship,” Wolff noted.

“That can put you in a negative spiral but he has managed to recover and I think he realised he had a tremendous opportunity in being a Mercedes works driver in Formula in what is, at the moment, the best car against the best driver out there.

“That is an amazing gift that has been given, an opportunity he has earned. He came back with a mentality saying 'I need to do the best I can' and you can see that now.

“His qualifying performances are great and he has raised the deficits he had against Lewis. I think we are seeing a stronger Valtteri from race to race,” Wolff concluded.

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