London: 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 – in his stead.
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.”
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