After having gone through painful experience of managing two No.1 drivers in the team and facing media and fan backlash, every time there was an incident, Toto and Co. must have grown frustrated and it would be too much to imagine that they want to go back into the same situation. After all, they have given it to the fans and the sport for 3 years and now would want to have some peace in their management process. Hence, there is no way that they will add another top of the line driver to the team.
New bee to partner Lewis
I remember, some time back Dr Zetsche mentioning Wherlein as the future of Mercedes. I strongly feel this is the way Mercedes is going to go. If that happens, it would be a cake walk for Lewis to beat Wherlein. In the recent tyre testing itself, there was some rumored discussion between Lauda and Lewis about Mercedes wanting Lewis to do the testing because he was "8 tenths faster than Wherlein". It could be primarily because of Wherlein's lack of understanding of the current car to the extent that Lewis knows. Still, expecting Wherlein to compete the way Nico was doing, is slightly too far fetched.
If Wherlein doesn't live up to the expectation, they can still replace him with Ocon and try.
No.1 and No.2 arrangement:
Who on the grid today would want to be a No.2 to Lewis?
- No Red Bull drivers (neither Senior, nor Junior team members).
- Perez, Grosjean and Bottas are the next level, competitive drivers who might just want to get that seat, even if they had to agree for being No.2. They would hope that, they can put their best display in the first year to then have some equality for the following years.
- I don't see anyone else, on potential or on competitive basis.
With a big unknown of next year's performance levels between different top teams, Mercedes are in difficult situation to balance their driver choice. If they end up making wrong choice and the competition has caught up to Mercedes this winter, they would have to say good bye to the WCC next year.
I think, it would be between Wherlein, Perez and Bottas. If they think Wherlein is a risk for next year, they can swap him with Perez and offer discount to FI for 2017 Engines. FI has never blocked their driver's growth path, so they might just agree to it. If FI feels nervous, then a swap between Wherlein and Bottas is also a good possibility. Williams having lost 4th to FI, are going to be down on budget and if they could get some discount from Mercs, they would be in good position to develop their car for next year, with those big bucks from Stroll.