Russell to Merc, Bottas to Alfa, Kimi retires – report

Date published: September 1 2021 - Mark Scott

Kimi Raikkonen with Valtteri Bottas. Paul Ricard June 2021

The Formula 1 rumour mill has been fired up again with French broadcaster Canal+ claiming Valtteri Bottas will replace Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo.

The main piece of the F1 2022 driver puzzle left to solve is which driver will partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season: George Russell or Valtteri Bottas?

On Formula 1’s return from its summer break, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff confirmed to the media that the decision has been made internally but an official announcement will be made “soon”.

“Soon”, according to France’s free-to-air F1 TV broadcaster, could be on the race weekend of September 10-12 – the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Canal+ claim that a reliable source has told them Raikkonen will officially announce his retirement with fellow Finn Bottas then replacing him at Alfa Romeo.

That, in turn, would pave the way for George Russell to make the step up from Williams to Mercedes alongside Hamilton.

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While the likes of Toto Wolff and George Russell have been very careful with their words when asked again about their 2022 plans at Spa, the latter did have a brief exchange with Sky Sports’ Rachel Brookes that may suggest there is some truth to Canal+’s claim.

Following the conclusion of the farcical Belgian Grand Prix, Russell was asked: “Does an announcement on your future depend on situations elsewhere?”

After a little pause, Russell simply said “yes” with a smile and walked away.

Should all those particular dominoes fall down, then a space at Williams will open up alongside Nicholas Latifi, who is expected to retain his place with the Grove-based team for 2022.

A report from the Italian edition of Motorsport.com has claimed information gathered from the Spa paddock has indicated that Albon is currently Williams’ first choice for a 2022 race seat.

Alfa Romeo, too, could also be an option given that both Raikkonen and team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi are currently out of contract at the end of the season.

Albon has been watching from the sidelines in a reserve and development driver role at Red Bull this season and has made no secret of the fact that he wants to return to the grid next season.

A return to a Red Bull seat is definitely off the cards with Sergio Perez, his initial replacement, confirmed for another campaign, while sister team AlphaTauri are expected to stick with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.