As two adolescents in love, Russell and Mercedes had been around each other for some time. Everyone saw that they would eventually get together, but they didn’t want to make it official themselves. Today the high word is finally out and it is really official that George Russell is leaving for Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas is leaving the team and that paved the way for George to take over the Mercedes seat. George Russell will be Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes in 2022.
Russell said in the Mercedes press release: “It’s a special day for me, but it’s also a day of mixed emotions. I’m excited to go to Mercedes and it’s a big step. But it also means saying goodbye to Williams’ team and friends. […] When I think about next season, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity that I want to grab with both hands.’
It’s not the first time for George Russell
Next year Russell will take a seat in a Mercedes next to Hamilton. It is not the first time that George will drive for the team. Last year Hamilton had to watch a race from the sidelines when he tested positive for corona. In that race , George had bad luck with a flat tire and a wrong pit stop, which meant that the win slipped through his fingers. It is to be hoped that he will have better luck next year.
Why George Russell is going to Mercedes
In 2018, George Russell won the Formula 2 Championship after a battle with Lando Norris and Alexander Albon that lasted all season. The following year, Russell got a seat in the underperforming Williams. He has shown his qualities in qualifying before, earning him the nickname Mr. Saturday yielded. At Williams, he has never been beaten by a teammate in qualifying. In this year’s Hungarian GP, for the first time, he was able to convert Saturday’s good form into his first points for the team. He will go for the championship at Mercedes in 2022.
Russell has been part of the Mercedes training since 2017 and managed to reach the premier class under the wings of that brand. After his Formula 2 title, he spent three seasons with the dilapidated Williams . Russell showed his class in qualifying, coming to the fore at Spa and also replacing Hamilton in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. The talent waited patiently for a structural opportunity and it will present itself next year. Wolff knew that he had to offer his protégé something to keep him – Helmut Marko has already shown subtle interest – and therefore opted for promotion to the factory team.
That promotion certainly comes as no surprise. Wolff, for example, already made the decision during the summer break and Russell already knew where his future would lie before the Belgian GP. After the announcement of Valtteri Bottas, who has to leave the works Mercedes team after five seasons of loyal service, it was all about waiting for confirmation. That came today, so Mercedes has the line-up complete and Hamilton knows his teammate. The reigning world champion has been informed before. For example, he did not want to comment on Russell before the Dutch GP and called Bottas his best teammate ever. In Zandvoort, however, Hamilton knew what was going to happen and showed himself remarkably more positive about Russell: “He is the future and what he showed in Spa, is incredible. I think the dynamics in the team will also remain good. I’m at a different stage in my career and I don’t really have anything to prove.”
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Special day, but mixed feelings
Obviously Russell wants to prove himself and show his potential in a good car. He has repeatedly indicated that it was quite difficult to see his F2 rivals Lando Norris and (temporarily) Alexander Albon driving for the prizes in better material. Next year, Russell will finally get that chance, much to the delight of the protagonist, who has a multi-year contract in his pocket. “It’s a special day for me personally and professionally, but also a day of mixed feelings,” he admits. “I’m looking forward and honored to join Mercedes next year. It’s a huge step for my career, but it also means saying goodbye to my friends and team-mates at Williams.”
Russell wants to finish his time at Williams in the final races of 2021 on a good note. Then comes the challenge at Mercedes, which he expects will not be an easy one. “I’m under no illusions about the size of the challenge, it’s going to be a steep learning curve. Valtteri has set the bar high by delivering consistently week in, week out, winning, taking pole positions and helping the team with winning multiple world titles,” said Russell about his predecessor at Mercedes, who will leave for Alfa Romeo after this season. The Brit hopes to continue that success series. “My aim must be to repay the trust of Toto, the team and management by ensuring that I have my part in continuing that success, and I also want to make my new teammates proud.”
Learning from ‘role model’ Hamilton
One of those new teammates is seven-time world champion Hamilton. A big challenge for Russell, who is placed next to the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. “I’ve looked up to Lewis since I’ve been in karts,” he said. At the same time, the 2018 Formula 2 champion sees the partnership with Hamilton as a great learning opportunity. “As a driver, professional and human being, I can only take advantage of the opportunity to learn from someone who is a role model both on and off the track.”