Here’s proof that if you’ve got talent, tenacity and a good attitude, even duff equipment can’t stop you reaching the top. The Mercedes F1 team has announced that Williams driver George Russell will join the Brackley-based world champions from 2022, replacing Valtteri Bottas.
The move has been long mooted after Russell – who’s a member of Mercedes’ own junior driver programme – impressed in the underperforming Williams during his early seasons in F1.
He memorably stood in for Covid-struck Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Sakhir Grand Prix, qualifying second in an unfamiliar Mercedes car he didn’t really fit into. Russell took the lead at turn one and looked to have a deserved win in his sights, before a botched pit stop and a puncture cruelly dropped him down the order. Meanwhile, the Drive to Survive directors pretty much exploded with excitement.
Until this year's Hungarian GP, in which he finished 8th, George’s desert heartbreak was the only occasion he had scored F1 championship points, but his mature racecraft and outstanding ‘Mr Saturday’ qualifying pace had already been catching the eye and winning the respect of his fellow drivers and F1 insiders in the paddock. Russell scored his first podium at the memorable (for all the wrong reasons) Belgian GP at Spa a couple of weeks ago.
The 23-year old Brit – who has previously won the Formula 2, GP3 and Formula 4 titles – will partner seven-time F1 world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton in an all-British line-up at the Silver Arrows, as Formula One enters a new era of car design regulation with stringent new rules designed to make the racing closer and overtaking less of an aerodynamic nightmare. It’s a formidable line-up.
Russell replaces Valtteri Bottas, who himself made the move from Williams back in 2017 after the 2016 title winner Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from the sport.
The 31-year old Finn has scored nine wins during his time with Mercedes, but struggled to put together a convincing world title bid against Hamilton’s all-conquering dominance. He has aided Mercedes in winning back-to-back constructor’s titles in every year he’s driven for the team however, and finished runner-up in the driver’s standings in 2019 and 2020. In 2022 Bottas will drive for Alfa Romeo.
So, is the all-Brit dream-team of Hamilton and Russell a perfect partnership, or a recipe for Mercedes meltdown? Let us know your predictions below…
STORY Ollie Kew