Word around the paddock is that Mercedes has made up its mind about where its drivers are going. It’s believed that George Russell will partner with Lewis Hamilton next season, while Valtteri Bottas will likely get a soft landing — or, rather, as soft a landing as one could hope after being dropped from a top Formula 1 outfit — and head to Alfa Romeo.
Bottas may take the space left vacant by 41-year-old Kimi Räikkönen, who made his rumored retirement at the end of the season official on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Williams could enlist the services of Alex Albon, who might otherwise make the trip to IndyCar if he’s left without a seat in F1 again next year.
As the cavalcade of names shows, there are lots of moving parts to this potential scenario and again, nothing’s been confirmed yet. When asked last Saturday at the Belgian Grand Prix if Mercedes had chosen between Russell and Bottas for 2022, team principal Toto Wolff said a decision was made. This week, he added that he can’t share that yet until every loose end is tied up. From Motorsport.com:
Explaining the delay in making any announcement, Wolff said it was “because there are stakeholders that are involved that we need to respect”.
“As long as contracts are not signed, it makes no sense to announce it,” he added.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he wanted both Bottas and Russell to have their future sorted before making any announcement, Wolff replied: “Yes.
“It’s not only our call, but there are other parties involved and you have to always proceed with respect and with diligence.”
Far be it from me to put words in the man’s mouth, but what “other parties” would be involved if Russell and Bottas were staying put next year? As I read it, Wolff’s basically announced the swap without actually announcing it. The offers have been made; now we wait for the agreements to fall into place.
I’m feverishly knocking on my wooden desktop as I type this with my other hand, but let this be an early congratulations to George Russell, who once again proved last weekend that we still haven’t even begun to understand what he’s capable of. I can’t wait to find out in ’22, when he’s finally given a car that matches his abilities.