Mercedes denies treating Sakhir GP as 2022 shootout for Russell and Bottas

Mercedes claims it is not treating this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix as a shootout between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas for a 2022 Formula 1 seat

Mercedes denies treating Sakhir GP as 2022 shootout for Russell and Bottas

Russell will make his Mercedes race debut this weekend after being drafted in from Williams to replace Lewis Hamilton following his positive test for COVID-19.

Russell has been part of Mercedes' junior programme since the end of 2016, and has been widely tipped throughout his impressive F1 career to date to go on to race for the works team in the future.

The 22-year-old's contract with Williams expires at the end of 2021, making it feasible he could move up to Mercedes for the 2022 season to partner Hamilton.

PLUS: The risk and reward of Russell's Mercedes opportunity

It has led to suggestions that this weekend's race in Bahrain is an opportunity for Mercedes to compare Bottas and Russell in identical equipment, acting as a face-off for a future seat.

But Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff denied this was the case, saying one or two races - if Hamilton is unable to return in Abu Dhabi - would not be a meaningful comparison.

"No, not at all. I've heard this rumour, and obviously you can't call it a shootout when it's about one or two races," Wolff said.

"That doesn't give you any meaningful data whatsoever. If George does well, it's an indication that one day he is going to be in a good car, and hopefully race for victories and world championships.

"But that is far away. He knows that, he just needs to deliver a solid job, not make any mistakes and continue what he's done.

"There is no shootout. We have total trust in Valtteri, and loyalty as we always have. That is our position."

Russell kicked off the Sakhir race weekend in style by topping both FP1 and FP2 on Friday, but downplayed his headline times as being "deceiving".

PLUS: The critical area that Russell and Mercedes must ace in the Sakhir GP

Bottas finished three-tenths of a second off Russell in FP1 due to floor damage, and then had his fastest time deleted in second practice, leaving him 11th overall.

Asked how Mercedes would reassure Bottas if he was beaten by Russell this weekend, Wolff expressed his confidence in the Finn's mentality.

"Valtteri has never been somebody that needs reassuring," Wolff said.

"He knows where he stands, he knows his position in the team, how we are supportive of each other.

"We have to remain realistic. George is a highly rated young driver, one of the most highly rated, so it's expected of him to be fast. He knows the team, and this is a 50-second circuit, where you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right engine modes.

"In that respect, this is just going to be alright. We all expected George to be right there, and we'll see how the weekend ends."

Wolff did acknowledge that the data gained from Russell running in the Mercedes car would help build a better picture of his overall ability and performance.

"It's another set of data points this weekend, and maybe next weekend, that will be kind of giving us more information in our overall understanding of George's performances," Wolff said.

"We know that we race next year with Lewis and Valtteri.

"Where we are in 2022 is all going to depend on how our own season in '22 is going to go, and not by George's performance on an oval in Bahrain and on a season finale in Abu Dhabi."

shares
comments
Ferrari: "Common sense" to allow Sainz to take part in Abu Dhabi F1 test
Previous article

Ferrari: "Common sense" to allow Sainz to take part in Abu Dhabi F1 test

Next article

Fittipaldi set to start maiden F1 race from last after PU penalties

Fittipaldi set to start maiden F1 race from last after PU penalties
Could mixed fortunes for F1's leading Brits turn around at Silverstone? Plus

Could mixed fortunes for F1's leading Brits turn around at Silverstone?

For the first time in many years, none of the local racers starts among the favourites for the British Grand Prix. But George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris could have reasons for optimism

Verstappen exclusive: Why F1’s champion isn’t fazed by Silverstone return Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why F1’s champion isn’t fazed by Silverstone return

Max Verstappen is the world’s number one racing driver… and he’s determined to keep it that way. Speaking exclusively to GP Racing's OLEG KARPOV, the Red Bull driver explains why he’s relishing the 2022 championship battle with Charles Leclerc – and why he’s not worried about returning to Silverstone, the scene of the biggest accident of his career last year

Why Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar can help its F1 team Plus

Why Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar can help its F1 team

On Tuesday, Red Bull laid out its plans to develop and build a new hypercar - the RB17 - penned by Adrian Newey. As the project itself sates Newey as a creative outlet, it also offers Red Bull's Formula 1 team a number of new and exciting avenues to pursue

Formula 1
Jun 29, 2022
What to expect from Mercedes as F1 returns to Silverstone Plus

What to expect from Mercedes as F1 returns to Silverstone

OPINION: The British Grand Prix is a home event for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with their Mercedes team based just a few miles away too. But there’s another reason why the Silver Arrows squad is eager to arrive at Silverstone this weekend, which may help it fix its remaining problems with its 2022 Formula 1 challenger

Formula 1
Jun 29, 2022
The “solemn promise” that cost quiet hero Brooks an F1 title Plus

The “solemn promise” that cost quiet hero Brooks an F1 title

After two terrifying crashes, one of the best British racers of the 1950s retired before his career peaked. But that’s why GP Racing’s MAURICE HAMILTON was able to speak to Tony Brooks in 2014. Like his friend Stirling Moss, Brooks was regarded as one of the best drivers never to have won the world championship. Here, as our tribute to Brooks who died last month, is that interview in full

Formula 1
Jun 27, 2022
Inside the Faenza facility where AlphaTauri’s F1 pragmatic vision is realised Plus

Inside the Faenza facility where AlphaTauri’s F1 pragmatic vision is realised

AlphaTauri’s mission in F1 is to sell clothes and train young drivers rather than win the championship – but you still need a cutting-edge factory to do that. Team boss Franz Tost takes GP Racing’s OLEG KARPOV on a guided tour of a facility that’s continuing to grow

Formula 1
Jun 26, 2022
Connecting two of Ferrari's favourite F1 sons Plus

Connecting two of Ferrari's favourite F1 sons

Gilles Villeneuve's exploits behind the wheel of a Ferrari made him a legend to the tifosi, even 40 years after his death. The team's current Formula 1 star Charles Leclerc enjoys a similar status, and recently got behind the wheel of a very special car from the French-Canadian’s career

Formula 1
Jun 24, 2022
How a 30cm metal wire triggered open warfare in the F1 paddock Plus

How a 30cm metal wire triggered open warfare in the F1 paddock

Porpoising has become the key talking point during the 2022 Formula 1 season, as teams battle to come to terms with it. An FIA technical directive ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix and a second stay appearing on the Mercedes cars only served to create a bigger debate and raise tensions further

Formula 1
Jun 23, 2022