Williams F1 Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams has responded to rumours that her star driver George Russell might be joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2020 by reminding the World Champions that the young Briton is in the first year of a three year contract and that they expect him to see out that agreement.
Williams’ comments were prompted by doubts over the long-term future of ex-Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, now team-mate of Hamilton, who started the season in blistering form that silenced any lingering talk of the Finn, perennially on a short-term contract since joining the team from Williams in 2017, being replaced at the season’s end.
Since then however, his results have dipped resulting in Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff publicly stating that the German Grand Prix and Hungarian Grand Prix would go a long way to contributing to Bottas’ fate, a fate that would be decided shortly afterwards.
A disastrous German Grand Prix for the entire Mercedes team, and for Bottas in particular, whose weekend came to a premature conclusion when he found himself nestled in the wall when attempting to line up an overtaking manoeuvre on another ex-Williams man Lance Stroll for second place in the race.
‘Sh*t’ was how Wolff bluntly described Bottas’ efforts after the race.
Pre-season it had appeared that Esteban Ocon, once of Force India and without a contract for 2019, was being groomed to step in should Mercedes no longer see a future with Bottas, however, it has been rumoured lately that Mercedes are on the brink of releasing the Frenchman from his contract to allow him to further his Formula 1 career elsewhere (possibly Renault), leaving young George next in line.
“I told Toto that George is on a three-year contract with us, he is firmly in our plans for the future and is going nowhere” Claire told the Daily Mail.
But we all know how Formula 1 works. Despite Williams’ protestations, if Mercedes want George Russell, they’re going to get him, and nobody knows that better than Claire.
It’s more likely that, rather than this being a message to Toto that if he wants George alongside Lewis Hamilton he’s going to have to wait for him, this is Williams letting Mercedes know that if they’re to get their man then substantial remuneration, financial or otherwise, is going to have to go in the other direction!
It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.