Williams have declined the chance to dampen down speculation over George Russell’s future by refusing to confirm he will stay with the team.
Simon Roberts, the acting team principal for Williams, had the perfect opportunity to shoot down recent rumours that Russell could be dropped for 2021 in favour of Sergio Perez.
The whispers have suggested that Williams’ new owners Dorilton Capital, who bought the team in August, are interested in hiring Perez for the sponsorship revenue he would bring, allied to his much greater experience as a driver.
In that eventuality, Russell would thus be the one to make way because his rookie team-mate Nicholas Latifi is also attractive from a commercial standpoint.
Russell, a Mercedes junior driver who is effectively ‘on loan’ at Williams with his three-year deal due to end after the 2021 campaign, insisted at his press conference on the eve of the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend that he had heard nothing that would alter his situation.
📻 “It’s very, very tricky out there.”
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) October 23, 2020
But Roberts, rather than specifically state Russell and Latifi would remain with the team next year, merely batted away the subject during the constructors’ press conference, saying “nothing has changed” without categorically stating that it won’t.
“I’m just not going to talk about it,” said Roberts, quoted by RaceFans. “Dorilton bought the team, nothing changed with regard to the drivers.
“There’s just so much speculation, rumours, it’s crazy. It’s silly season, after all. We’re not saying any more than that.”
When asked again about the team’s plans for its 2021 driver line-up, Roberts added: “Nothing’s changed. There’s lots of speculation. There are lots of good drivers around that are looking for seats. Dorilton bought the team and nothing changed. I can’t say anything more than that.
“I’m not going to say anything about either of our drivers. They are both doing a great job. There’s so much speculation around, I don’t want to inadvertently fuel it. Someone will take some nuance in whatever we say. So we are happy – let’s watch the rest of the market.”
Asked whether the team could end the speculation over its driver line-up by ruling out a move for Perez, Roberts said: “Possibly, but we just don’t want to say anything one way or another. We are here focusing on our race weekend. We haven’t got any news.
“We’ve got plenty on today. We are running lots of parts in first practice. We’ve got to get through all that and get both our drivers in the best possible place for Saturday and Sunday.”