By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The worst kept secret in Formula One was revealed Tuesday. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team signed Williams Racing’s George Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas next season.
This confirmation comes a day after Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN announcing Bottas will be joining them on a multi-year deal. Russell will be paired up with none other than seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Thus, the Williams ride becomes the latest vacant seat for 2022.
Russell described the announcement as a special moment filled with mixed emotions. While excited to join Mercedes, he knows it’ll mean farewell to Williams at season’s end.
“It has been an honour working alongside every member of the team, and an honour to represent the Williams name in F1,” said Russell. “Since I joined in 2019, we have worked tirelessly to push each other forward and bring the team back up the grid where it belongs. We’ve battled for every qualifying position, every point, and every tenth of a second.
“No matter how tough it’s been, nobody has ever given up, and that has inspired me every day. I’ve loved every moment in what I’d describe as a true heart and soul racing team, and I’ll be pushing harder than ever to make sure we end our story in the best possible way.
“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,” Russell continued. “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.”
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wollf commented that Russell is a proven winner in every motorsports category he’s competed in. Now that the deal was finally made, it’s game on for 2022.
“It is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time,” said Wolff. “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 to come.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders to have our plans for 2022 clear and announced; but now, our focus returns to the final nine races of this season and putting everything into our challenge for this year’s world championships.”
No stranger to the team, Russell has been apart of Mercedes’ junior program for five years. In fact, when he makes the full transition, it won’t be his first rodeo with the current seven-time World Constructors’ Champion.
Last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix marked Russell’s grand prix debut “The Silver Arrow” as he filled in for Hamilton, who was sidelined with COVID-19.
Right away, Russell showcased his worth people have touted over the years. Scoring outside pole, only to be beaten by Bottas. As for the race itself, Russell had a superb showing and appeared to be on his way for a maiden victory.
However, the crew put Bottas’ tires on Russell, costing him time and the race win that went to Sergio Perez. Despite some disqualification concerns due to the tire mix-up, Russell kept his ninth-place result.
With nine rounds left at Williams, the 23-year-old Brit has already left an incredible mark with the once dominant entity. Not only he’s gained the moniker of “Mr. Saturday” due to outqualifying Nicholas Latifi in every single grand prix to date, but finally scored points with the team in 2021.
Those points scoring efforts taking place at Budapest and Spa, where the latter resulted in a runner-up outing. His first on what’s expected to be many podium finishes in his young F1 career.
Those efforts has propelled Russell to 15th in points and Williams now sit eighth in the constructors’ standings. Something Williams Racing CEO Jost Capito will miss of Russell as indicated with his statement.