George Russell has the weird situation of being a very good driver, who is stuck with a backmarker team in Williams. However, there are discussions that he may get the Mercedes seat in 2022, as he enters the final year of Mercedes’ ‘loan’ deal to Williams. Williams have also acknowledged the fact that he may leave the team soon.
Russell has had the misfortune of racing in a wildly uncompetitive car throughout his until now two-year stint with the team. He, however, got his opportunity to race for Mercedes when he filled in for an ill Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Brit showed ample maturity throughout the three-day weekend and was rather unfortunate not to come away with a win. That performance made Mercedes take notice of him and led to ridiculous claims that they would look to replace Hamilton with him.
In an interview, Williams CEO Jost Capito spoke about how aware he was that Russell could leave the team should Mercedes come calling. He said, “If a driver gets an offer from Mercedes in the current situation, there are very few alternatives.”
“George Russell is an exceptional talent, there’s no question about that at all. He’s been in Mercedes’ youth development programme for a long time and they recognised that very early on.”
The German thinks the team should show progress before thinking about enticing Russell to stay. He said, “Whether you can keep him or not also depends a lot on what offers he has. And also how we work with him now and how he sees the development of the car for 2022.”
He spoke about the merits of Russell saying, “He integrates himself into the team, he’s with the team a lot, he goes to the gym at Williams, prepares himself, is part of the team. And that’s very important for a driver if he wants to move forward.”
Mercedes are in a weird position, where all three of their contracted drivers have their contracts winding down at the start of 2022. Mercedes need to make a decision now regarding the progression of Russell.
They faced a similar situation with Esteban Ocon when they were unable to find a seat for him in 2019. This led to him leaving the team for Renault in 2020.
Russell will have an approximate estimation of the standard of team he will want to race for. He will rightly think that he is ready for the Mercedes seat. But who will they want to replace with him?
They won’t want to oust Hamilton like that despite his age and replacing Valtteri Bottas with Russell could potentially ruffle Hamilton’s feathers.
So, Mercedes have an interesting decision to make on their hands, and how they handle it could determine not just their short-term but also long-term plans in F1.