George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Wolff denies Russell and Bottas are in a “shoot-out” for a 2022 Mercedes seat

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has denied George Russell and Valtteri Bottas are in a “shoot-out” for a drive with the team in 2022.

Russell, the team’s junior driver who races for Williams, is substituting for Lewis Hamilton after the world champion tested positive for Covid-19. He was quickest in his first practice session for the team earlier today.

Seven-times champion Hamilton is widely expected to sign a new deal to drive for Mercedes next year. Bottas signed a new one-year deal to drive for the team in 2021.

The team’s decision to promote Russell to their line-up this weekend instead of reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne has prompted speculation Russell could be chosen to replace Bottas in the world champions’ 2022 line-up. However Wolff firmly rejected suggestions this weekend’s race should be seen as a “shoot-out” between the two.

“Not at all,” said Wolff. “I’ve heard this rumour. Obviously you can’t call it a ‘shoot-out’ when it’s about one or two races. That doesn’t give you any meaningful data whatsoever.

“If George does well it’s an indication that one day he’s going to be in a good car and hopefully race for victories and championships. But that is far away. He knows that. He just needs to deliver a solid job and not make any mistakes.

“There is no shoot-out. We have total trust in Valtteri and loyalty as we’ve always had and that is our position.”

Wolff said this weekend – and next, if Russell remains as a substitute for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – will give Mercedes “another set of data points” to understand the performance of Russell, who has been one of their junior drivers since 2017.

“We know that we [will] race next year with Lewis and Valtteri. Where we are in 2022 is all going to depend on where our own season in ’22 is going to go and not by George’s performance on an oval in Bahrain and in a season final in Abu Dhabi.”

However Bottas admitted yesterday he can ill-afford to finish behind Russell. “If it beats me, for sure it wouldn’t look so good on me if I have a normal race and if he beats me fair and square,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“Obviously I’ll try to avoid that. But I’m not a person who thinks things on that side of things. I try to turn things into a motivation and do positive thinking. And that’s my mind set for this weekend.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Wolff denies Russell and Bottas are in a “shoot-out” for a 2022 Mercedes seat”

  1. Yeah ok not a shoot out, but it would be folly to think they won’t absorb all the data they will garner on GR from this race and potentially one other. He’s a Mercedes driver and he’s in a unique situation, and of course comparisons will be inevitable and they’ll have info to go by wrt his abilities to adapt as well as to work with his crew. Not saying this because of one practice session so far, but I think next year will be VB’s last at Mercedes. They should move on and promote a young up and comer like GR, and as others have suggested get him beside LH while he can learn from him before LH retires.

  2. No shooting required I suppose.

  3. Revealing comments from Wolff and VB beneath the smokescreen. First, Mercedes seem all prepared for Hamilton to miss both races. Second, Bottas spells out the reality: “it wouldn’t look so good on me if I have a normal race and if he beats me fair and square”. So he knows pressure is on him. And that means he’s not buying into Wolff downplaying the significance. On the other hand, Wolff can afford to be a bit ingenious with this debate as, theoretically, Bottas and Russell could be teammates as early as 2021 if Hamilton doesn’t sign again, or in 2022 if he extends the contract for one year only. That fact allows him to sidestep the issue of Russell directly competing for Bottas’s place.

  4. If VB gets dusted by George this weekend, VB version 4.0 is going to need a major upgrade in 2021.

    1. @furkmyster

      I think Bottas 4.0 looks an awful lot like Russell.

    2. The annual updates to Bottas is a bit like how Man Utd turn the corner so many times that more often than not they end up back where they started..haha.

  5. In my mind, Mercedes really have nothing left to prove in F1. So maybe they should just save themselves how ever many 10’s of millions, give Russell the drive, and let Lewis find somewhere else to go next year. I have nothing at all against the guy, and I doubt that would happen anyway, but it sure would make things a bit more interesting.

    1. Yes, I think he can do fine on any other team, and would have been a candidate for title in a much more interesting season had he been at the 2020 red bull.

  6. Jose Lopes da Silva
    4th December 2020, 17:44

    It’s great that Bottas gets direct and straight like Kimi and doesn’t try to downplay the obvious.

  7. Why wait? Send Bottas off on gardening leave for next year!

  8. Of course they’ll keep Bottas as long as Hamilton is there, and in my mind they would even forego Russell when Verstappen comes in after Hamilton for another type placid wingman a la Vandoorne.

    Maybe that’s why they felt bad and at least let him have a go now.

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