We all knew it was only a matter of time. It was never a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when.’ And if you were to ask Australia’s own Formula 1 legend Mark Webber, the question of when Williams Racing driver George Russell will finally join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes would be confidently answered with 2022.
“Going up against Lewis is going to be extremely challenging,” Mark Webber went on to elaborate when speaking with Nine’s Wide World of Sports.
“But George has nearly 50 races under his belt now, so he’s ready for it. Lewis went straight in at the front of the grid when he started, which just shows you the calibre of Lewis. Only the very special drivers can do that. 99% of guys need some races to get used to the idea of running at the front.”
“George is ready for it, but it’s a different thing to qualifying well in sub-par machinery and doing well when there’s little pressure on you.”
George Russell had what was perhaps the greatest audition for Mercedes possible (though not perfect, which we’ll address shortly). Aside from consistently milking every bit of race from a car that’s antonymous with competitive, the emerging motorsport talent replaced Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix in tremendous fashion. Narrowly missing pole position during qualifiers to start in second place, Russell was just 20 laps away from earning his maiden F1 victory… until an egregious pit stop error cost him the W, eventually relegating him to P9.
The stars might not have aligned on that particular occasion, but they ostensibly have this time around. As George Russell’s three-year contract with Williams is about to conclude, Valtteri Bottas finds his head on the chopping block due to what has uniformly been deemed a lacklustre season thus far. While his teammate is currently locked in a relatively close title fight with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Bottas sits at 5th place in the F1 Championship Standings – trailing behind McLaren’s considerably less experienced Lando Norris with 92 points, five podium finishes, and zero wins (in one of the grid’s quickest set of wheels, no less).
In the unlikely event Mercedes does decide to give Valtteri Bottas another shot, however, Russell may still be offered a killer upgrade. Dr Helmut Marko of Red Bull, for one, has stated he’d be more than happy to welcome the young Brit aboard. Although he doubts he’ll even be afforded the chance to recruit Georgie boy.
“Russell is certainly worth considering with the performances he is now showing at Williams,” Marko explains to Motorsport-Total.
“The only thing is, that’s so utopian, because if Mercedes let him go, that would be such a faux pas that I honestly can’t imagine it… If I am informed correctly, then [the question of making him an offer] is not relevant.”
Considering the assertions of both Mark Webber and Dr Helmut Marko, this certainly bodes well for George Russell, his future in Formula 1, and soon enough, the Mercedes team’s chances at furthering its dynastic run of grid dominance. For the time being, however, all we can do is sit and wait for the official announcement – perhaps at Silverstone this coming weekend, as many suspect.