Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Mercedes unlikely to choose between Russell and Bottas before end of season – Wolff

2021 French Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says the team is unlikely to decide whether to keep Valtteri Bottas in its driver line-up until December at the earliest.

George Russell is the favourite to take Bottas’ seat if Mercedes chooses not to retain him for a sixth season next year.

World champion Lewis Hamilton is expected to extend his deal to continue driving for the team in the 2022 F1 season.

Wolff said it is “highly possible” the team may not announce Hamilton’s team mate until “somewhere in the winter, I think.”

“But I don’t know if it’s December or January or February”, he said.

“We have always been committed and loyal to the drivers and this is what we are doing,” Wolff added.

George Russell, Williams, Paul Ricard, 2021
Russell is eager to land a place at Mercedes
Bottas lies sixth in the championship after the first six races of 2021. Asked what he must do to secure his future at the team, Wolff said “drive cars fast on Saturday and Sunday.”

“If he does that, then he puts himself in a very good situation in terms of next year.”

Mercedes has had an unchanged driver line-up for five years, longer than any other team. But Wolff said the potential benefit of introducing a fresh driver to the team is not a primary consideration.

“That is one of the components or one of the things that need to be considered, absolutely,” he said. “But it’s not the main driver.

“The main driver is consistent performance. Every team is going to judge that and especially in this difficult year, we need two drivers that are racing right there.

“If one is having an ‘off’ weekend or DNFs you need the other one to bring it home. And that’s why it’s always important that both are just on the max of their ability.”

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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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46 comments on “Mercedes unlikely to choose between Russell and Bottas before end of season – Wolff”

  1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    18th June 2021, 20:07

    So pretty much confirming they’re going to wait on what Hamilton does before they make a choice then.

    1. You need at least one driver to blame.

      1. @rocketpanda What it confirms for me is that there will be a swap of VB and GR. I just cannot believe TW would leave either driver hanging without a chance to find another ride, so as convinced as I already was that GR was going to Merc for 2022, now I am 100% convinced of a swap and VB will go back to Williams to help build that team back up, while GR works with LH as Merc’s heir apparent to mould him to their team and they to him for the coming 2-3 years until LH retires.

        1. I agree. The way you’d expect things to go is the most prestigious seats would be announced early on with the less prestigious seats to follow later on.

  2. A shame but understandable.

  3. I’m not sure how waiting till December benefits anyone. If they do decide to drop Bottas, at that point he won’t even be able to negotiate for a seat with another team that late. And if they do the same to Russell, they could have potentially denied him an opportunity to move further up the grid. And even if this is for them to see what Hamilton does, didn’t both team and driver state they would like to get the 2022 contracts sorted early this year? So why wait till December?

    1. To me, this seems like it’s shaping up for Mercedes to find a reason to keep Bottas. If they win the WCC (as they are likely to), they can point to Bottas’ contribution as a way to keep him for 2022. I’m not sure what it is, but Mercedes seem intent on keeping Bottas over Russell. In the same position, Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari probably wouldn’t even hesitate to pull the trigger to get their academy driver into the team. Bottas is a good driver, but Mercedes are keeping him purely for the same reason Ferrari held onto Raikkonen for so long: it doesn’t upset anything. But the difference is that Ferrari at least replaced Raikkonen with Leclerc once they got the chance.

      1. Indeed, with such a car advantage this strategy is possible. But they will throw Bottas under the bus at the first sign of WCC troubles.

      1. @mashiat Or it will be a VB/GR swap as I say in a few other posts here.

        1. @robbie Would Williams accept not even knowing who their driver for 2022 would be in December? And this is with the assumption they’ll happily take Bottas. Although a team like Williams could do a lot worse than him, there’s drivers out there who have more money who Williams might prefer to take on. I’m sure they receive some reimbursement from Mercedes with Russell, they wouldn’t with Bottas.

          1. @mashiat I think Williams will know way before we do officially. And I think there is nobody better out there for them than VB. And I’m not sure, now that there are new owners, they need a paying driver when they can have the experience VB would bring.

    2. I agree it doesn’t benefit anyone, it’s annoying me, and I hope it’s a bluff and that the rumors are true, russel in mercedes asap!

      1. It might destroy the public perception of Lewis, so they will postpone to the maximum, leading to this ridiculous situation

    3. It looks to me like this confusion is caused by a mistake in the article. First the article says Wolff talked about DECIDING, but then it says he talked about ANNOUNCING. Those are very different things, and there can easily be a difference of several months between one and the other. Maybe they take the decision in September or even August, but they don’t announce it to the media until December. That’s probably what Wolff meant.

  4. Sunday would be the best day for Bottas to bag a win by being quicker than Hamilton.

    1. I don’t trust bottas with this this year, he NEVER outperformed an in-form hamilton this year, he did fine at monaco but hamilton was terrible, in the past years when bottas got pole like he did at one race this year he usually was in with a chance, in portugal no way, he even managed to lose to verstappen with a faster car.

      1. @esploratore1
        I don’t have high hopes either… and even medium altitude hopes are scarce I guess…

        Still, he’s the quicker Merc in al 3 sessions. So maybe there are some low hopes around.

        1. Ok, so much for the medium hopes. Now there are only bottom-of-the-barrel scraped hopes left for his sunday ….

  5. With Red Bull’s Verstappen going from strength to strength, Ferrari bringing Leclerc in two years ago and now having him lead the team, McLaren committing to Norris and Renault/Alpine going long-term with Ocon – it seems all big teams are firmly looking to their future.

    But Mercedes is seemingly content to let their biggest young asset languish in a terrible Williams car for years on end. Why? If they believe Russell would do any worse than Bottas there is no point keeping him on contract at all, so clearly they think Russell can deliver if needed. Are they so scared that Russell will recreate the Rosberg-Hamilton rivalry that they want to keep these two separated?

    1. @cashnotclass No, as per my comment above I can only see this kind of a late announcement, possibly even into the new year, as to mean TW will swap VB and GR. There is no way he would hang either driver in the balance that long otherwise. If he didn’t have this swap in mind he would have no choice but to advise one of them while this season is still going so that they could have an opportunity to find another ride. This 100% confirms for me a VB/GR seat swap. Wouldn’t even be surprised if they already know it but just have to wait for whenever TW wants to make it official for there to be an announcement.

      1. @robbie Unfortunately Toto has form letting drivers fall in dark hole. Werlien was left in no man’s land, Ocon was hanging out in the garage when Toto assured him he had a ride. Toto doesn’t seem to be bothered if his driver’s are sitting on the fence for a season. Now a clear signal that he’s worrying what’s best for Mercedes and drivers come after. Having your career in his hands must be nerve wracking.

        1. Jason I’m not so sure about that. Werlien? Meh. Not at VB nor GR level in terms of what TW would have been seeing in him, and I would say we don’t know what TW and PW talked about behind closed doors ie. PW may have been well aware of his chances and of what TW had in mind for him ie. not hung out to dry at all, whereas everything else was just rumours out there in the Ethernet amongst speculative fans and media. Same with Ocon. Was he really assured of a ride? It was that just a rumour too?

          I do take your point but with VB and GR this just doesn’t have the same feeling to me at all wrt to their careers. VB has been an actual Merc driver for 5 years now and I would be shocked if TW would hang him out, and the rumours of GR, not to mention his actual drive replacing LH and his performance during said drive, just have too much to them for me to see anything other than an orchestrated move between TW and Williams to do a driver swap.

      2. @robbie Possible, but an unannounced post-season swap would leave Bottas and Russell pretty much out of time to find a new drive. If both drivers know about the scheme, Russell in particular doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo because he’s been making quite public statements about wanting his future sorted.

        For Mercedes and Wolff, a lot might depend on what Hamilton decides to do. Will he quit if he becomes an 8-time champion? Does Wolff even know? They probably don’t want to ditch Bottas until they know for sure that they have someone for that #1 car.

        1. @cashnotclass As I say to me TW stating such a late announcement date tells me he’ll have it sorted for them both. He simply would not leave them hanging and with no time to find other rides.

          As to LH, I thought he had already said he wants to keep going. As well, there is no way he is going to have gone through this season without enjoying all the publicity of each race being known to the world as his last at each venue. No way he’d go through this season only to say at the end ok I’m done. He’ll want the world to know when he is on his last season so he can be doted upon.

  6. Even if Bottas isn’t driving his best season Mercedes should know by now that they can’t leave anyone hanging. December is too late. They could do it in a Ferrari way (Vettel) and that would be much better than announcing before christmas that you are out of drive. Same goes for Russel. It seems that Hamilton is the one who really is the leader not Toto, Ineos nor Daimler.

    1. Yes, announcing by december is bad too, look at albon, everyone knows I’m not a fan of him at all, but he might’ve had a chance to land a midfield drive if he had been dropped earlier (which his performance would’ve justified imo) than the end of the season.

  7. GR, more accurately his managerial team, has been making himself sound bigger than what he really is.

    Lots of talk, lots of sounding tough and strong and a shoe in for the Merc seat. It makes everyone expect it’s a dine deal and ensures the press keep asking when Merc will swap VB for GR.

    It’s smart of GR’s managerial team, doesn’t make any of it true.

    I think TW I would rather have Gasley than VB or GR.

    TW is still gutted he missed out on Perez.

    1. Nah, wolff wants to keep bottas forever, this is why mercedes NEEDS to lose at least a title this year, maybe this will let him think twice about having a subpar driver.

      1. Exactly. Toto and his champagne problems

  8. Wolff is condemning one of those drivers to an impossible position for a drive next year. The winter is too late to fix a sensible negotiation for a seat.

    Perhaps he wants Russell stuck in the pathetic Williams team for another three years. If so that is a cruel waste of serious talent.

    If he drops Bottas in January he almost certainly won’t find another seat.

    So is Wolff serious?

    Perhaps Russell better start searching for other opportunities up the grid and forget Mercedes under Wolf’s management.

    1. Especially true if mercedes finally becomes beatable, so far between 2014 and 2021 mercedes was the car you wanted, but now there might be a potential equal alternative, hopefully more by 2022, so you lose less if you give up on a potential mercedes chance, russel would do really well on a decent midfield car.

    2. Wolff will continue until something needs to change and then drop Bottas like he has never met him in his life.

  9. Just a discussion stopper as the press get more fixated about who is in the car next year. ‘We will let you know in Dec.’

  10. Poor Russell. By the time he gets to Mercedes their winning days could well be over… Wouldn’t it be a cruel twist of fate if Williams, under Capito, has a better car by then?

    1. Thought about that too. I like the scenario, not for George, but to finally see another car win something. This Mercedes dominance is beyond ridiculous and the qualities assigned to Lewis as well. It is quite insulting to previous WDC winners imho.

  11. Maybe it’s a carrot to ensure that Bottas performs well this year. Perhaps the williams Merc swap is already agreed but VB doesn’t know?

    1. @tenerifeman My goodness how much more carrot does VB need or deserve after 5 years of the WCC car and each year a ‘promise’ of finding and extracting more only to not do anything more. VB’s had enough carrots and it’s time for GR to have one now. Imho nothing can save VB from losing the seat now and the only thing that might have prevented that would have been finally leading LH on the team, not to mention Max of course too. That hasn’t happened again, and so what is the point anymore with VB?

      1. They just can’t. They run the risk of totally dethroning Lewis.

  12. Agreed and the reason for that is the harmony between Hamilton and Bottas. If Hamilton wins the WDC and Mercedes win the WCC then Bottas has played his part.

    If Russell comes in and upsets the apple cart like Leclerc did with Vettel and Ferrari then it could end up costing Mercedes dearly.

    Another question mark is would Hamilton be willing to accept a competitive teammate like Russell

    1. A third question is if there’s still a team feud inside.

  13. They are gonna drop Bottas but they want to ensure his cooperation until the end of the season so they are not gonna tell him during the season.

    1. +1. Choice has been made already. Only If Russell messes up in a big way they might reconsider.

  14. Not many slots are open.

    Russel is top talent, but only Mercedes seat might be open.

    So he is kind of stuck at Williams. Would Alpha Tauri take him? Sure, Alfa Romeo, sure, but other teams have star drivers who are quite capable.

    Best options are to replace Stroll(or more likeley Vettel), Bottas, Perez. But of all mentioned only Bottas is occupying a top seat and underperforming.

    But for some reason Mercedes have proven they like it that way. Meanwhile GR will grow old and bitter at Williams.

    1. I don’t fully believe it, but I can’t blame Toto for trying to cut down on the hysteria. I wouldn’t want to talk about this topic every hour of every day for the next couple months either.

    2. Oops, meant that as it’s own comment, not as a reply to you.

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