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
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Valtteri Bottas , George Russell
Teams Mercedes
Author Luke Smith
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Plus

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Plus

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says NIGEL ROEBUCK

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Are we at peak F1 right now? Plus

Are we at peak F1 right now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021 Plus

How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021

The longer Red Bull can maintain a performance edge over Mercedes, the better the odds will be in the team’s favour against the defending world champions. But as the Bahrain Grand Prix showed, many more factors will be critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship

Formula 1
Apr 7, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Plus

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021
When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m Plus

When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m

Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix lasted mere corners before he wiped himself out in a shunt, but his financial backing affords him a full season. Back in 1993 though, Marco Apicella was an F1 driver for just 800m before a first corner fracas ended his career. Here’s the story of his very short time at motorsport’s pinnacle

Formula 1
Apr 4, 2021
The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes Plus

The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix despite, for a change, not having the quickest car. But any hopes of developing its W12 to surpass Red Bull's RB16B in terms of outright speed could not have come at a worse time.

Formula 1
Apr 2, 2021