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Valtteri Bottas staying at Mercedes for F1 2020 season

Bottas gets the nod for another season at F1's world champions - with Esteban Ocon joining Renault at Hulkenberg's expense

Valtteri Bottas will stay as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at Mercedes for the 2020 Formula 1 season.

The world champions have exercised the option they had on the Finn's services for next year after using the summer break to decide on their driver plans.

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Esteban Ocon, who had rivalled Bottas for the seat, is joining Renault in place of Nico Hulkenberg.

"I am very happy and proud to be part of the team for a fourth season and wish to thank every team member and the board of Mercedes for their trust and belief in me," said Bottas, who turned 30 on Wednesday.

"My performances have been getting better and better each year, and this is a great way to kick start the second half of 2019.

"My overall target is to become Formula 1 world champion. I believe that on paper, and from my experience with the team, Mercedes is the best option for me to achieve that goal in 2020."

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Bottas, who joined Mercedes in 2017 as a replacement for Nico Rosberg when he retired, is Hamilton's nearest title challenger as the season prepares to resume at the Belgian GP this weekend.

However, the early promise of the Finn's campaign - which saw him win two of the opening four races - faded in the events before the summer break and he is a distant 62 points behind his team-mate. Red Bull's Max Verstappen, the form driver of recent events, is just seven points adrift of Bottas.

Why did Mercedes retain Bottas?
Although Bottas' finish to the first part of the season, when he crashed out in the wet in Germany and finished eighth in Hungary after first-lap contact, had appeared to aid Ocon's case for promotion from his reserve role, the Finn's results up to then had proved strong.

Bottas and Hamilton are tied for the most pole positions (four) so far in 2019.

"For 2019, we set Valtteri the challenge of coming back even stronger than we saw him in the first part of 2018 - and he has achieved that, with some really impressive performances in the early races this year," explained Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

"Although it has been his most successful first half of a championship so far, he is hungry for more and determined to keep on improving and raising his level. That's the mindset we want from all our team members."

In addition to proving successful, the Hamilton-Bottas partnership has also crucially proved both harmonious and constructive to Mercedes' championship efforts.

"The results we have achieved together with Valtteri are no coincidence: he has been an integral part of our championship success in the past two seasons, his teamwork with Lewis has been exemplary and he has shown real strength of character in how he has responded to setbacks," added Wolff.

"I'm delighted that he will stay with the team for another season at least - and look forward to seeing him raise the bar even further."

Ocon joins Renault, and he's not 'on loan'
Bottas' renewal opened the door for Ocon to return to a race seat elsewhere in 2020 - and Renault snapped up the highly-rated youngster on a two-year deal.

There is no 'loan' element to the deal, meaning Ocon will become a fully-fledged Renault driver from the start of next year. He will continue with his existing Mercedes simulator duties until then.

Wolff had admitted the prospect of promoting the 22-year-old Frenchman, who impressed in 50 races for Manor and Force India before losing out on a seat for this year, was a tantalising one - but made clear he would not block alternative opportunities for Ocon if they ultimately stuck with Bottas.

"I think if you can't provide an opportunity for a young driver, then you've got to make compromises," said Wolff in Hungary. "Certainly I wouldn't sabotage Esteban's career by blocking him and not releasing him to drive in Formula 1."

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