The buzz around who will be Mercedes’ second driver and Lewis Hamilton’s teammate does not seem to stop. As we approach the mid-season break in the F1 season, the fans are expecting some confirmation from the defending champions.
George Russell, who currently drives for Williams, and is under contract with Mercedes is seen as a prime candidate for the job. As part of an agreement that sees Williams use the German constructor’s engine, Williams have to give one seat to a Mercedes driver.
At Silverstone, there were rumors flying around the paddock that George Russell will be announced as Mercedes’ official driver for 2022. But they remained rumors and if anything the British GP race weekend served as a reminder to Mercedes of the importance of their current driver Valtteri Bottas.
When asked about it directly on the official F1 podcast, Russell was quick to deny that any deal has been signed regarding his future. This is the last year of his contract with Mercedes and the 23-year old has many suitors. Red Bull may also be interested in signing Russell, said team boss Christian Horner.
Mercedes definitely consider the youngster as their future but are they ready to risk it all on him. Nicknamed “Mr. Saturday” for his outstanding performances during qualifying sessions, Russell is performing exceptionally at Williams.
At the Sakhir GP in 2020, he was the stand-in driver for Lewis Hamilton, who missed out due to testing positive for Covid-19. And if not for a pit-stop error by the team and a tyre puncture, Russell was well on his way to a race victory on his debut with Mercedes.
What about Valtteri Bottas
It has been revealed that one of the conditions to Hamilton signing with Mercedes is that they retain Valtteri as the second driver. Such is his importance. History may only remember Hamilton and his victories, but F1 fans will always know the role Valtteri played in that success. After all, Batman needs his Robin.
But will the Finnish driver want to continue as wingman for more years? He has seen plenty of success with the team with 9 race victories and 53 podium appearances. There are times when he makes his frustration known, but Valtteri is more reserved during conferences.
News has surfaced that he is in talks with Alfa Romeo for a seat in 2022. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff also mentioned that he feels responsible to ensure that Valtteri has a seat for 2022. Is that an indirect message that Mercedes are in the process of replacing him? Toto Wolff stirred the pot more with his comments about Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries at the recent Formula E race.
At the moment though, Mercedes has only one thing on their mind. The battle with the Red Bull and defending their Championship. Valtteri’s role in that mission is undeniable. And he delivers consistently. Whether it is a slipstream tow in qualifying or letting Hamilton pass to keep his title fight alive, Valtteri is the best team player around.
With the changes to the car and regulations in 2022, the team will also look towards experience rather than youth to help them fight for wins and titles. In that aspect, Russell would not be the right fit. Also, would Russell be the right wingman for Hamilton? Till anything is announced, all we can do is wait or speculate.