After current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas stated a move to Alfa Romeo, it was only a matter of time before the team announced that George Russell would join Mercedes. Toto Wolff did not hesitate, literally the next day to make a statement that all Formula 1 fans have been waiting for years. George Russell Mercedes driver and Lewis Hamilton’s new teammate for 2022. Why did Mercedes pull the trigger on Russell and what responsibility will George take next year?
Why did the Mercedes team prioritize George Russell?
Choosing between the reliable Bottas and the progressive Russell would make sense to extend Valtteri’s contract. Finnish F1 driver played a key role in winning the constructors’ championship as well as Lewis Hamilton’s title. Bottas has 17 poles and nine wins with Mercedes since joining in 2017, but has played a major supporting role for Hamilton.
Today, George’s exceptional talent is hard to ignore and the timely decision to sign Russell is crucial, especially now that Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull cars are so fast. Current Williams driver has been with Mercedes since 2017 and is always ready to get behind the wheel. He replaced Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix when the seven-time world champion tested positive for Covid 19. As a result, several factors overlapped simultaneously at the most opportune time for George Russell.
He is talented, and that is a fact.
George Russell can rightly be described as a young talent, his racing results speak for themselves. During the 2021 Formula 1 season he showed breathtaking time in qualifying sessions, which even the Scuderia Ferrari drivers could not achieve. Briton pushed the maximum of his Williams car in race. That’s what the team is banking on with the signing of George. The talent of a younger driver should help him get the most out of a Mercedes car in a battle with Red Bull.
A good relationship with the team.
Talent decides a lot, but not everything in Formula 1. Everyone in the Mercedes pit knows George; he has a good relationship with boss Toto Wolff. Thanks to patience and composure, Russell has repeatedly demonstrated the loyalty to the team. Someone laughed in the Formula One paddock and believed Briton should not wait, but he continued to believe unconditionally.
A timely decision.
No matter how much stamina George Russell has, he would not have the strength to wait another year. Now is the moment when it is “all or nothing.” No doubt, all Formula 1 teams are interested in inviting George because. There is no way back – either Mercedes signs the contract or it is time to look for other options and Russell could undoubtedly find them. Toto Wolff, a very powerful man who is interested in the best racers in the drivers’ market, knows this.
Time to learn.
The deal also provides an opportunity for the young Briton to grow. Additional conditions are the new rules for the 2022 Formula One season. Lewis Hamilton’s current contract expires at the end of 2023. George has at least two seasons to learn from the greatest driver. Performing well against Hamilton, he will take on the role of team leader in the future when the seven-time world champion retires.
It’s not a straightforward decision.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits this. George Russell performances impressed since joining the Williams in 2019 – as well as an outstanding performance when he took over from Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020. Despite all the advantages and disadvantages, the decision was difficult, partly because new relationships between the current Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Russell can grow in unpredictable ways. No one would want to break the idyll and repeat the old story. However, they took a risk.
What are the tasks of George Russell in Mercedes for 2022?
A young driver has the opportunity to gain experience alongside Lewis Hamilton. That will be difficult at first and he will be the second driver, but his skill will certainly help the progress of Mercedes. George Russell now makes no secret of his joy and is ready to help the team achieve the best results.
“It’s a special day for me personally and professionally, but also a day of mixed emotions,” George Russell.
Everything could change when it comes to the taste of victory. Unlikely, he will then take the position of second driver if the car allows him to win. That is why rumors circulated in the paddock the day before that Lewis Hamilton was unhappy with Russell’s candidacy. The seven-time world champion will have to fight with rivals from other teams and also have to defend himself within the team.
“I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years ahead,” Toto Wolff
This competition will help Mercedes move forward and at this point the team management will need a lot of strength in depth to keep both drivers at bay. Formula One fans will already remember similar situations on the Scuderia Ferrari when Charles Leclerc drove alongside Sebastian Vettel. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work.