‘Driver change unrealistic for 2021 but maybe in the future’

Michelle Foster


Despite winning the non-showdown showdown against Valtteri Bottas at the Sakhir circuit, Toto Wolff has quashed suggestions that George Russell should take the 2021 Mercedes drive.

Russell was the star of Sunday night’s Sakhir Grand Prix, leading the race on his Mercedes debut by five seconds ahead of Bottas before a botched pit stop cost both drivers.

Russell crossed the line in ninth place, scoring his first World Championship points while also taking the fastest lap point.

His performance in his debut race had many fans and pundits calling for him to be promoted to Mercedes to race alongside Lewis Hamilton next season.

Wolff says that definitely won’t happen.

“He’s a Williams driver, and is signed up to Williams,” the Mercedes motorsport boss said, “and our driver line-up is Valtteri and Lewis.

“So I don’t see this as a realistic situation at that moment of time [2021].

“But I can understand that it would be an interesting situation, both in the team and maybe a bit of a wild ride for all of us.

“Maybe we’ll have that in the future.”

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Asked whether Russell’s performance on Sunday had at least guaranteed him a 2022 Mercedes race seat, Wolff says that has yet to be decided.

“George has always been a Mercedes driver,” he said.

“He’s a Williams driver now and they can be proud of what he’s done today. And they will know that his lap times in a Williams are probably the benchmark.

“And now we need to see what the future holds. I haven’t made up my mind now what that means for us.”

As for speculation that Mercedes could use Russell’s performance to play hardball with Hamilton, who has yet to re-sign with the Brackley squad for next season, Wolff again rubbished that.

“They are two different things,” he stated. “Lewis has been with the team eight years, we have had great success in the past. He’s a team member.

“And I said it already before the weekend: none of the events this weekend will interfere with or change any of our negotiations.

“That wouldn’t be fair against him. It wouldn’t be fair against us.

“Because it could have gone the other way around, a race weekend where George wouldn’t have been on pace and I don’t think that he [Hamilton] would say ‘well hold on a minute now this is an advantage for me’.

“Our relationship goes much beyond that.”

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