George Russell sends Lewis Hamilton message to Toto Wolff as he eyes 2022 Mercedes chance

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George Russell has admitted he would love to test himself against Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022, but says he is not “hassling” the Silver Arrows and will wait for his opportunity with the world champions.
Mercedes junior driver Russell is into the final year of his contract at Williams, with whom he has spent his first two seasons in Formula One.

The 22-year-old has yet to score a point with the Grove-based backmarkers but does boast a formidable 36-0 qualifying record while driving for Williams and has become playfully known as ‘Mr Saturday’ by fans.

Russell proved his promise when temporarily replacing Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain last year.

He was primed for a maiden F1 victory after overtaking Valtteri Bottas at the first corner, having qualified a close second to the Finn, until a team pitstop mix-up while his recovery from the incident was checked by a puncture that forced him to settle for a ninth-placed finish.

It is widely believed that Russell will come under consideration when Mercedes consider changing their driver line-up of Hamilton and Bottas, which enters its fifth season together in 2021.

The Briton has won all four available titles in his previous seasons alongside Bottas, who has only claimed nine wins across that time, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen managing the same amount across the same span on time despite being at the wheel of inferior cars.

Hamilton and Bottas are both out of contract ahead of 2022 but the 36-year-old’s comments ahead of pre-season testing, particularly those saying an eighth title will not define his future in the sport, have indicated he plans to continue into next year.

That would suggest it is the Finn who will be the one under pressure this season to prove he shouldn’t lose his seat.

And Russell, his biggest rival to a Mercedes drive for next year, insists he would relish an opportunity to occupy the same garage as seven-time champion Hamilton and take him on in the same machinery.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, a smiling Russell declared: “Every driver wants to put themselves against the best, obviously. I believe in myself and Lewis is the benchmark at the moment.

“But equally you’ve got a lot of fantastic drivers out there who might not have the same CV as Lewis but Max, Charles [Leclerc], Lewis, they’re all on the same level.

“Putting yourself against any of those three would be great for any driver.

“Mercedes and [team principal] Toto [Wolff] have always had my back. They have believed in me from day one and, when they believe the time’s right, the time will be right.

“Obviously the Ferrari engine was very off the pace last year and I think they’ll be making a good step forward so we need to make double that step just to stay on the same page as them.

“But I think, like I said, the guys have done a good job, it’s now down to see how our competitors get on. Fingers crossed but I think we’ll still make a small step forward in the right direction.”

Speaking to the general press, Russell declared that he has to continue to be consistent even if Williams are at the back of the pack.

“If I perform on track and I deliver continually on the same path and progress I’ve been on so far, I guess in the future the opportunity will come but I’m not thinking about it and no promises have been made,” he said.

“I think my target is just to perform to the absolute best of my ability, week-in, week-out. That is what I’ve been doing, or trying to do, ever since I was eight years old starting in go-karting.

“What comes from that is out of my hands. All I can control is how I perform on track. I have had some fantastic opportunities in the past, obviously the Bahrain race last year.

“Getting my opportunity into Formula One with Williams in the first place, the support of Mercedes.

“That’s come from controlling what I can control, and that’s how I get on, how I perform on track – and that is not going to change.”

Russell will test out Williams’ 2021 challenger the FW43B at the Bahrain International Circuit in pre-season testing across Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week.

The new F1 season then gets underway with the first race at the same circuit a fortnight later with the second race to be held at Imola in Italy on April 18.


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