George Russell was finally confirmed Tuesday as Mercedes’ newest driver, taking Valtteri Bottas’s seat for 2022, confirming what had been the worst-kept secret in the racing world. This could be the start of something special.
Russell has been tweeting and retweeting things about it today, and who can blame him? He’s waited over four years for this, ever since he signed with Mercedes’ young driver program in 2017, before becoming a full-time driver with Williams in 2019.
Russell also said all of the right things, via Formula1.com:
“Looking ahead to next season, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve.
“Valtteri has set a high bar, consistently delivering week in and week out, scoring wins, pole positions and helping win multiple championship titles. My target must be to reward the trust that Toto [Wolff, Team Principal], the team, and the board have placed in me by ensuring I play my part in continuing that success and I want to do my new team-mates proud.
“Of course, one of those new team mates is in my opinion the greatest driver of all time. I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being.
“For now, though, I have nine more races as a Williams driver, and I want to make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team. Then, and only then, can I turn my attention to 2022.”
It would be a shock if Mr. Saturday goes to Mercedes and is anything less than a runaway success, given how much he’s gotten out of the Williams car, including a podium finish at last month’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The intrigue here, rather, is how Lewis Hamilton feels, given that Hamilton seemed to enjoy the fact that Bottas was good enough to help him win titles but not good enough to properly challenge for the title himself. Unsurprisingly, according to The Guardian’s sources, Hamilton would’ve preferred the status quo. Emphasis mine:
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, admitted the decision to drop Bottas for Russell had not been easy but was optimistic the new line-up would prove formidable.
“It is our challenge together to help George continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time,” he said. “I am confident that, as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years ahead.”
Hamilton was understood to favour retaining Bottas with whom he has developed a friendly and positive working relationship since the Finn joined Mercedes in 2017.
Hamilton is signed at Mercedes through 2023, and so it is pretty unlikely he is going anywhere until then, even if he and Russell don’t hit it off. Hamilton also always claims to love competition, which he is certainly getting this season by way of Max Verstappen. We’ll see how much he loves it when the call is coming from inside the house.