Mercedes finally announce George Russell for 2022
After an age of guessing, rumours and horribly-kept secrets, George Russell will officially make the move from Williams to Mercedes in 2022. Alasdair Russell reports.
The dominoes have all fallen into place. Mercedes have confirmed that George Russell will drive for the Brackley-based team in 2022, signing on a long-term contract.
Russell is clearly excited about this development in his career. Speaking of his step up to the World Champions, he said: “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.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said in a statement: “He has been a winner in every racing category – and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1. Now, it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis [Hamilton], the greatest F1 driver of all time.”
Russell, who has been a member of the Mercedes Junior programme since 2017, has spent the last three seasons in Formula 1 impressing with the underperforming Williams. He scored his first points for the team in Hungary before a stunning lap in the wet qualifying of this season’s Belgian Grand Prix put his car on the front row of the grid, narrowly missing out on pole. With the only laps of the race at Spa being completed behind a safety car before the race was red flagged for a second time, Russell’s qualifying performance was enough to see him net his first podium in F1.
The first race of next season will, of course, not be Russell’s first race for Mercedes, having deputised for Lewis Hamilton at last season’s Sakhir Grand Prix, with the seven-time World Champion missing out due to a positive coronavirus test. Under difficult circumstances, Russell impressed – a tall driver, he had to wear racing boots that were a size too small to even fit in the car. Despite this, he qualified a mere 0.026 seconds behind Valtteri Bottas in pole position. He would go on to overtake the Finn and lead the race in dominant fashion, before a pit stop error from the team and a late puncture eliminated his chances of securing the win.
While this move has dominated F1 gossip for months, the rumour mill is nowhere near finished churning out news and whispers of a potential final driver line-up for 2022. To much less fanfare, Alpha Tauri today confirmed that Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda will retain their seats for next season. This announcement sees the grid almost completely confirmed, with the majority of teams looking set to remain with the status quo to go rockin’ all over the world.
Terrible puns aside, Williams and Alfa Romeo are still to lock in both of next season’s drivers. While Nicholas Latifi has not officially re-signed for Williams, it’s expected that the Canadian will remain with the British team for a third straight season. As for Alfa Romeo, they announced that Bottas will join them in the new year, but as for the drivers set to partner Latifi and Bottas? Your guess is as good as mine…