One of the bright spots of Williams’ disappointing run of late has been the emergence of Britains’ George Russell as an as-complete-as-you-could-get-in-your-debut-seasons Formula 1 driver, and potential World Champion of the future.
He’s yet to be bested in qualifying by a team-mate, and despite never having notched up his first point (Polish fans will point out that their man scored Williams’ sole point last year) 9 times out of 10 has easily had the measure of both Robert Kubica in 2019 and Nicholas Latifi this year.
But with Russell being ultimately contracted to Mercedes and being effectively ‘on-loan’ to Williams, it was only a matter of time – it seemed – before the silver team would come calling and Russell would be offski, up to the sharp end of the grid to compete for podiums and wins.
Indeed, with Mercedes’ #2 Valtteri Bottas being repeatedly retained on 1-year deal after 1-year deal despite wanting longer (seemingly because George is finishing his F1 schooling before stepping up) we’re continually wondering whether this is the year the Finn is shuffled off & George promoted in his stead.
However, the Formula 1 merry-go-round has spat off some high profile drivers without a drive for 2021, and with a good number of promising (and big name – cough, Schumacher) juniors primed to make the step up from F2 to F1, it would now seem that George – in the middle of the two – might be squeezed out of a drive.
Despite having another year to run on his three year contract, rumours in the paddock ahead of this weekend’s Portugese Grand Prix suggest Williams may be considering replacing George with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, himself ousted from the team that will soon become Aston Martin by incoming 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Perez will bring with him a bundle of Mexican cash from Telmex and Telcel, and a boatload of Formula 1 experience. He’s stood on a Formula 1 podium and so he knows how to bring a car home.
And (bear with me here) Mercedes – to whom George is ultimately contracted – have as their CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff. Toto Wolff is also a shareholder in Aston Martin – the team that Sergio Perez will depart at the end of the season. Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll was only able to buy the team in 2019 after it was forced into administration by Sergio Perez, keen to see the team avoid going bust after it was run into the ground by previous owner Vijay Mallya.
Whichever way you look at it, Stroll snr. owes Perez, big time, and yet he’s given him the elbow in favour of Vettel. Something that might ease his conscience is if he asks partner Wolff if he’d kindly agree to prematurely ending Russell’s Williams contract so that Perez isn’t left without a drive altogether.
This way, George can spend a year in the Mercedes garage before joining Merc full time in 2022, Perez prolongs his F1 career, Williams get an much needed injection of Mexican Pesos and Lawrence Stroll sleeps soundly at night.
It kind of all fits, doesn’t it?