Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has quashed talk that George Russell and Valtteri Bottas are in a “shoot-out” for a 2022 seat.
With Lewis Hamilton forced to miss the Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19 Mercedes junior Russell was drafted in from Williams to take his place.
Despite being a Mercedes junior Russell has completed limited work with the Silver Arrows since starting his ‘loan’ deal with Williams at the start of the 2019 campaign, but in FP1 at the Sakhir Grand Prix he went on to top the session.
Some had hoped that they would get the opportunity to see Russell in a Mercedes next year, but with Bottas signed up for 2021 and Hamilton expected to follow, some had been talking about a “shoot-out” for that second Mercedes drive for 2022 between Russell and Bottas.
But Wolff has moved quickly to shut that talk down, instead saying that the only thing on the line for Russell is proving that one day he can be in a “good car” that can compete for race wins and titles.
But, the Austrian said those days are “far away”.
“Not at all, I’ve heard this rumour. Obviously you can’t call it a ‘shoot-out’ when it’s about one or two races. That doesn’t give you any meaningful data whatsoever,” he told reporters in Bahrain.
“If George does well it’s an indication that one day he’s going to be in a good car and hopefully race for victories and Championships. But that is far away. He knows that. He just needs to deliver a solid job and not make any mistakes.
“There is no shoot-out. We have total trust in Valtteri and loyalty as we’ve always had and that is our position.
“We know that we [will] race next year with Lewis and Valtteri. Where we are in 2022 is all going to depend on where our own season in ’22 is going to go and not by George’s performance on an oval in Bahrain and in a season final in Abu Dhabi.”
Bottas did admit that if he was to be beaten by Russell at the Sakhir GP, then it wouldn’t reflect well on him.
“If he beats me, for sure it wouldn’t look so good on me if I have a normal race and if he beats me fair and square,” said the Finn.
“Obviously I’ll try to avoid that. But I’m not a person who thinks things on that side of things. I try to turn things into a motivation and do positive thinking. And that’s my mind set for this weekend.”