Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has been confirmed by Alfa Romeo to be driving one of their cars in Formula 1 for 2022 and beyond, having signed a multi-year deal with the team.
Bottas, who joined Mercedes from Williams Racing when World Champion Nico Rosberg announced his shock retirement from the sport in late 2016 has struggled of late to match his seven time World Championship team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and found himself under increasing pressure as a result of Williams driver George Russell’s impressive performances as he approached the end of his three year deal with Williams.
It has long since been understood that Russell – who remained contracted to Mercedes throughout his time with Williams – would one day graduate to Mercedes F1, having cut his teeth at the Grove team away from the glare of the spotlight to allow him to be ready to challenge for wins and titles when he eventually made the step.
How and when he’d do this – would he replace Bottas, or wait until Hamilton retired and step into the #1 car – remained unknown before today, but now Bottas’ move to Alfa has been confirmed it seems all but certain that Russell will partner Hamilton in 2022 at the World Champions.
It’s no surprise that Mercedes should opt to keep Bottas – who on his day could match and beat Hamilton, but ‘his day’ coming all too infrequently in recent seasons – until George saw out his 3 year deal at Williams, and now that’s about to end, Bottas finds himself surplus to requirements.
It’s a shame for Williams who have found themselves in resurgent form in 2021, scoring double points in consecutive races for the first time since Valtteri Bottas left in 2016, including a second place for George in a rain affected Belgian Grand Prix.
Would the team find itself in this position with two Nicholas Latifis? Not wishing to be unkind to the guy but I doubt it – George is a special driver and he’s going to be hard to replace.
So who will Williams draft in as George Russell’s replacement? Well, all the chat at the minute is about Alex Albon. But I just can’t see it. Why? Alex Albon is contracted to Red Bull and while they seem to be the ones pushing for the deal, it’s highly unlikely that they’d do that if it meant Albon would have to be released from his contract – and I can’t imagine Mercedes (RBR’s big rivals and Williams’ engine partner) allowing a guy who’s employed by the enemy to drive a car they power.
Much more likely for me is Nyck De Vries, who has just won the 2021 FormulaE series with Mercedes, and who king-makers Mercedes would be more than happy to see in a Mercedes-powered car.
Are either of them a George Russell though? Sadly not.