George Russell says he was reassured by Toto Wolff he would not be “let down” in his quest for an eventual Mercedes seat.
Russell’s future had been a topic of conversation for most of this season before the announcement that he will replace Valtteri Bottas at the team next year, as the Mercedes junior driver approaches the end of a three-year ‘loan’ at Williams.
Bottas will head to Alfa Romeo, but former GP3 and Formula 2 champion Russell remained convinced that even if the jump to the senior team had not happened in 2022, he was made to feel as though it would have happened at some point anyway.
“I was never under the impression I wouldn’t have the opportunity,” Russell said in an interview with the PA news agency.
“Toto said to me ‘when have I ever let you down? Ever since you joined Mercedes you have always performed and I’ve never let you down. Focus on performing and leave the rest to me’.”
Russell’s performances have seen him be utterly dominant in qualifying against his Williams team-mates over the past three seasons, and he has largely outperformed them in race trim too.
Having earned his first official Formula 1 podium after a stunning qualifying lap in Belgium, with only two laps of the ‘race’ run behind the Safety Car due to the weather, the Briton has earned himself 16 points in 2021 after two barren years beforehand.
He has continued to raise eyebrows this year and said he feels like he is in an amazing position heading to his new team, now that he will be able to battle against Lewis Hamilton in the same car in 2022.
On the nervous wait to find out where he would be next year, he said he found out about Wolff’s decision to promote him towards the end of the summer break.
“I was aware I was having a good season and he called me the weekend before Spa,” Russell explained. “I was relaxed, I was on holiday and I felt like I had done enough up until that point to justify getting the job.
“I didn’t need to go out there and stand on his doorstep to ask if it was going to happen.
“In fact my parents were hassling me more than I was hassling anyone else. But I told them to trust me, I believe it will happen, so don’t worry. I always knew this was the plan.”