George Russell will line up alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2022 after the Briton signed a long-term race deal with Mercedes. The multiple world championship-winning team have spent the last few months evaluating whether to retain incumbent Valtteri Bottas or promote their protégé Russell – currently racing for Williams.
On Monday, their plan became clear when Bottas announced he will join Alfa Romeo next season on a multi-year deal. And that paved the way for Mercedes to confirm Russell on Tuesday. Russell, 23, is enjoying his most fruitful season in Formula 1 yet, having made his F1 debut with Williams in 2019.
The Briton took his maiden podium in Belgium last month in the rain-curtailed event, while he has earned the nickname ‘Mr Saturday’ owing to his consistently impressive qualifying performances – including P2 at Spa-Francorchamps. “It’s a special day for me personally and professionally, but also a day of mixed emotions,” said Russell. “I’m excited and humbled to be joining Mercedes next year, which is a huge career step, but it also means I’ll be saying goodbye to my team mates and friends at Williams. It has been an honour working alongside every member of the team, and an honour to represent the Williams name in F1.
“Looking ahead to next season, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve. “Valtteri has set a high bar, consistently delivering week in and week out, scoring wins, pole positions and helping win multiple championship titles. My target must be to reward the trust that Toto [Wolff, Team Principal], the team, and the board have placed in me by ensuring I play my part in continuing that success and I want to do my new team-mates proud.
“Of course, one of those new team mates is in my opinion the greatest driver of all time. I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being. “For now, though, I have nine more races as a Williams driver, and I want to make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team. Then, and only then, can I turn my attention to 2022.”
Wolff was quick to pay tribute to Bottas, calling the driver part of a “benchmark partnership” with Hamilton, before looking ahead to next year and the exciting prospect of seeing one of Mercedes’ junior drivers getting the chance to drive their F1 machinery for the first time. “This hasn’t been an easy process or a straightforward decision for us,” he said. “Valtteri has done a fantastic job over the past five seasons and he has made an essential contribution to our success and to our growth. Together with Lewis, he has built a benchmark partnership between two team-mates in the sport, and that has been a valuable weapon in our championship battles and pushed us to achieve unprecedented success.