Enough already! Just make the announcement!
That’s probably what most Formula 1 race fans are saying today as the George Russell saga drags on. Will the 23-year-old Russell, in fact, be replacing Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and become seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton’s teammate in 2022?
Or, will Mercedes keep the status quo and let Bottas stay on for another year as the No. 2 driver at Mercedes and let Russell wait another year in the wings for the drive that just about everyone in the sport believes will be his one day?
On Thursday at Zandvoort in the Netherlands—site of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix—Russell was asked whether or not he knew where he would be racing in 2022. And, much like he did last week at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium when asked the same question, Russell again stuck to the script.
“I have no news to announce, really,” Russell said. “Same position as we were in Spa last week.”
OK, we get that. But do YOU know where you’re going to be driving next season?
“Yes, I know where I’ll be driving next year,” Russell said.
If Russell does, as expected make the move to Mercedes, he knows that he’ll be in a different fishbowl from the one he’s in with the backmarker Williams team. He also would have the potential to upstage even the great Lewis Hamilton and give Hamilton a different challenge than he’s faced in recent seasons with Bottas.
“I think, obviously, there’s a lot of hypotheticals there,” Russell said. “Nothing is done yet and obviously as I’ve said a number of times over the past three years I have a huge amount of respect for Lewis and everything he’s achieved. I’ve seen him working incredibly hard with the engineers when I was there as a junior driver. He definitely doesn’t just rely on his immense natural talent. He goes above and beyond to try and find the extra. For any driver, you want the opportunity to go against the best and learn from the best. And I think that would be an incredible opportunity, to be there, but you know these are the same words I’ve said for the past three years.
Then, Russell paused.
“Don’t take anything from me saying this now because this is the same things I’ve said for the past three years. Lewis is the greatest of all time and it would be a huge opportunity to get the opportunity to go alongside of him and learn from him.”
So, George when did you find out what you’re not going to tell us?
“Verbally, before Spa,” he said after an even longer pause than before the last question. “I’m not going to sit here and lie. There’s nothing to announce. I’m aware of the situation of where I’ll be racing next year, and I was informed just prior to Spa.
Bottas, meanwhile, did an even better job on Thursday of sticking to the Mercedes public relations script when asked if he knew where he’d be racing next year.
“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t, same as in Spa,” Bottas said. “Things are going in the right direction, I’m happy and excited.”
“Things are going in the right direction, I’m happy and excited.”
That direction could be to become the No. 1 driver at Alfa Romeo next year. A ride there opened up on Wednesday with the announcement that 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen is retiring from Formula 1 and will be stepping out of his Alfa Romeo ride at season’s end.
It’s possible that Mercedes and Bottas wanted to make sure there was a landing spot for Bottas before making its own driver announcement. Then there’s the contract talks, which undoubtedly are going on behind the scenes, whether it be between Mercedes and Bottas or Alfa Romeo and Bottas.
Bottas’ desires for a longer contract is another indication that he’s on the outs at Mercedes, which seems ready to commit long term to Russell.
“A multi-year contract would be nice, that’s something I never had before in Formula 1,” Bottas said. “That way I definitively could give full commitment to the team, knowing that the work will continue. It needs to be challenging, it needs to be exciting, it needs to be fun, in an atmosphere I’d really enjoy working in.
“I think those are really the main things I’m looking forward. Like I said before, I still have quite a few years in Formula One. I really want to continue in Formula One, for sure.”
If Bottas is looking for a challenge, he would definitely find one with an Alfa Romeo team that is barely holding off Haas F1 Team for ninth place in the F1 Constructors’ Championship standings.
Hamilton, to his credit, is doing his best to keep the Mercedes decision close to the vest, but he seemed to shed at least a tiny bit of light on the silly season saga when asked about Russell. At the very least, Hamilton was quick not to dismiss Russell as his possible teammate for 2022.
“He’s the future, he’s one of the members of the future of the sport,” Hamilton said. “I think he’s already shown incredible driving so far and I’m sure he’s going to continue to grow. So where better to do it than in a great team like this …. or what team wherever he goes to?”
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