Sky Italia are reporting that Williams driver George Russell has been told by Mercedes’ CEO Toto Wolff that he will replace Valtteri Bottas for the 2022 Formula 1 season.
Since George Russell made his F1 debut with Williams in 2019 at the request of Mercedes to whom Russell is contracted, it has been expected that the young Briton would one day step into the Silver Arrows, with only the ‘when?’ and the ‘replacing who?’ to be established.
Who would Russell replace at Mercedes?
With both current Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas out of contract at the end of this season, it would appear that Mercedes have all options open to them.
However, with seven times World Champion Lewis Hamilton looking like he still has a lot of life left in him yet, and Valtteri Bottas enduring his most torrid season since joining Mercedes in 2017, coupled with George Russell‘s excellent form – especially in qualifying – it’s natural to think that Mercedes’ 2022 driver line-up will be an all British one, and Valtteri Bottas will be looking for a drive.
Sky Italia also suggest that Mercedes could announce Russell’s switch as early as this year’s British Grand Prix on the 18th of July, which would tie-in with Russell’s preference to have his future sorted out by F1’s summer break shortly after.
Mercedes responded on F1 FanVoice (Formula 1’s own official fan website & forum) ‘All we’ll say right now is, rumours are just that… rumours…’
Who would replace Russell at Williams?
Williams have a number of drivers in their young driver programme, including Jack Aitken (who stood in for Russell at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix) and Dan Ticktum – who would need to gain enough points towards his superlicense in F2 in 2021 to make him eligible to drive in F1 next year. (Dan currently has 28 points and so would need to finish this year’s championship in 5th – his current position – or higher).
None of Williams’ other drivers (Chadwick, Nissany) will qualify.
Another option would be for Williams’ new owners to look elsewhere for a driver that brings with him a bucketload of cash to shore up the team’s coffers. A Mazepin or another Latifi would do just this but might signal a lack of intent on the team’s behalf.
And a third option would be to try and entice Bottas back into the Williams fold. The Finn left Williams to join Bottas in 2017, and has spent five seasons up at the front of the grid, so quite how he’ll feel about going right down the grid is uncertain.
Jost Capito, Williams CEO might have some convincing to do if this is an option he wishes to pursue.
I’d be sad to see Russell go, but for the longest time it’s been inevitable, I wish the guy every success, and I’d thank him for all he’s given to Williams.