Mercedes to make straight choice between Bottas, Ocon for 2020

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- The identity of Lewis Hamilton's teammate next year will come down to a straight decision between Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon over the summer break.

Bottas has been at the team since the start of the 2017 season and is currently on a single year contract for 2019 with an option for 2020. Ocon, who has been contracted to Mercedes as a young driver since 2015, raced in Formula One between 2016 and 2018, but was left without a drive this year when Force India was taken over by Lawrence Stroll and Ocon was replaced by Stroll's son, Lance.

Ocon had a drive lined up at Renault for 2019, but the position was taken by Daniel Ricciardo's surprise move from Red Bull to Renault. As a result, Ocon has been working as a reserve and simulator driver for Mercedes this year as Wolff decides on his future.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that Max Verstappen or Mercedes junior George Russell might be in contention for the seat alongside Hamilton in 2020, but Wolff confirmed on Saturday that only Bottas and Ocon are being considered.

"Yeah, it's a question between Esteban and Valtteri," he said. "We've been discussing it for a long time within the team and I've been wrestling within myself on what is the right thing for the team and what is the right thing for the drivers.

"If we were to have only one of them, it would be a no-brainer to have them in the car. And in a way both deserve the seat.

"Esteban because he has been in tough situations and he certainly has the motivation and the energy and the talent to be in a Mercedes, and on the other side Valtteri has the experience and has proven again how fast he can go. He's tremendously supportive in developing the team together with Lewis, so there's lots of pros, some cons.

"In the end what we decided is to really not think about it anymore [ahead of the summer break] and wait for the Budapest weekend to pass, stick our heads together over the summer and come to a decision that is best for the team and best for both, because we care for both."

Wolff said it was important to allow the driver who is not chosen by Mercedes to explore other opportunities, meaning Ocon would be released from his contract if Mercedes chooses Bottas.

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

"And he is a great personality as he said he would understand if we were to do this and if needed he'd stay in the Mercedes family and do something else with us. But I think he must be given the opportunity in Formula One, either with us or with another team, and who knows what happens in two, three, four years down the line.

"These guys are all so young. They're between 20 and 22 years old -- when Lewis joined Formula One -- so all the future is bright for all of these young guys."

After a photo of Wolff with Verstappen's father, Jos, gained traction on social media on Saturday morning, the Mercedes boss confirmed it has been a casual drink in Budapest on Friday night and nothing more.

"With Jos you never have dinner you only have drinks!" he joked. "No I didn't have dinner with Jos. I had dinner with [Mercedes technical director] James Allison, but I saw Jos for a few drinks.

"But there's not really much more to say about that. I've said so many positive things about Max that he doesn't need any more of that.

"Equally he's at Red Bull, he has a contract, he's committed to Red Bull, and I like to see how he says that because I wouldn't want to have any driver in my team looking over the fence at what opportunity is out there, you've got to be committed to where you are.

"He's committed to Red Bull, this is where he's racing this year, this is where he's racing the year after, anything else is very much out in the open."