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
Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place Plus

Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place

Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his team-mate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon

What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors Plus

What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors

OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight

Formula 1
May 5, 2021
The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix Plus

The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix

Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
Portuguese Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Portuguese Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2021 Portuguese GP will for several drivers go down as a weekend of missed opportunities amid imperfect track conditions that caused struggles with tyre warmup. But the performances of a select few stood out from the crowd

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
How Hamilton took a “completely different journey” to Portugal victory Plus

How Hamilton took a “completely different journey” to Portugal victory

Just as he did in 2020, Lewis Hamilton had to come from behind to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Only this time there were two rivals he had to pass, among the several challenges he had to overcome, on his way to securing a 97th grand prix victory

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
The ‘big fish’ mentality that kept an Australian legend winning Plus

The ‘big fish’ mentality that kept an Australian legend winning

Frank Gardner was the veteran of just eight grand prix starts. It could have been more, but why waste his talent if the cars weren't up to it? NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls the life of one of racing's great characters

Formula 1
May 2, 2021
Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth Plus

Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth

Jean Todt has signalled that he will not stand for re-election as FIA president. MARK GALLAGHER analyses the strong credentials of one potential successor…

Formula 1
May 1, 2021
The data that leaves both Red Bull and Mercedes uncertain of supremacy at Portimao Plus

The data that leaves both Red Bull and Mercedes uncertain of supremacy at Portimao

Lewis Hamilton topped the crucial FP2 session on Friday as F1 returned to Portugal, but his Mercedes team cannot be sure it has the edge on its Red Bull rivals. As cool temperatures and wind combine with the still-slippery surface to present drivers with quandaries over set-up and tyre warmup, there's still everything to play for come qualifying

Formula 1
Apr 30, 2021