Mercedes have announced that George Russell will partner Lewis Hamilton in an all-British driver pairing for the 2022 Formula One Season.
Russell’s promotion comes after three impressive seasons at Williams in which he has never been out-qualified by his teammate and delivered the team’s first podium since 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, having finished second at this season’s Belgian GP in farcical rain-soaked scenes.
Russell also enjoyed a strong one-off appearance for Mercedes at last season’s Sakhir Grand Prix as he saw rotten luck and a pit-stop blunder deny him a maiden F1 victory, having replaced Hamilton for that race after his compatriot tested positive for Coronavirus.
Speaking on his decision to join Mercedes on a long-term contract, Russell said: “It’s a special day for me personally and professionally, but also a day of mixed emotions.
“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.”
The 23 year-old went on to admit that he is “absolutely buzzing” to make the move and believes that this is “a huge opportunity” which he wishes to grab with both hands, yet is aware that this will be a massive challenge which will serve as “a steep learning curve.”
Russell has also set himself a simple target which he explained, saying: “My target must be to reward the trust that Toto, 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.”
On partnering Hamilton, Russell is delighted to partner his childhood hero and believes that this chance to learn from the seven-time world champion will benefit his development as a driver on and off the track.
Russell though has iterated that his focus remains on Williams for remainder of this season and has vowed to “make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team.”
The Brit also paid tribute to Williams, as he described the privilege of driving for the iconic constructor as “an honour”, having helped the team turn their form around as they currently sit eighth in the standings after struggling in last two seasons.
Acknowledging how much he has achieved with Williams, Russell said: “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.”
Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff meanwhile is “very happy” to give Russell his big chance in a title challenging car, following three seasons on loan at Williams.
Wolff went on to explain that the biggest task next season will be to help Russell continue to develop and cannot wait to see how he gets on with Hamilton.
Commenting on the all-British driver pairing, Wolff added: “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.”
Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas who is set to depart the team at end of 2021, after the Finnish driver signed a multi-year contract to join Alfa Romeo from next season .
Taking to Social Media immediately after the announcement, Russell spoke of his pride at the support shown to him throughout his racing career.
It’s official. Next year, I’ll be a Mercedes F1 driver. This is a special day for me and I want to say a huge thank you to @WilliamsRacing, @MercedesAMGF1 and everyone who has supported me in getting to where I am today. I couldn’t have done it without every single one of you. 💙 pic.twitter.com/MmGA1vr9mR
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) September 7, 2021
Williams CEO, Jost Capito meanwhile hailed Russell as a ‘dedicated, focused and talented’ individual as he paid tribute to the 23 year-old for his efforts at Williams over the last three seasons, yet iterated that the young Brit ‘has all the characteristics necessary to achieve the greatest success in our sport’ at Mercedes.
Capito went on to confirm that he is ‘delighted’ about this move for Russell and addressed rumours over Williams’ driver plans for 2022, confirming that they ‘have a number of strong driver options available to us.’
How Is 2022 Grid Now Shaking Up?
With confirmation of Russell and Bottas’ moves plus news of Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement, the 2022 grid is beginning to fall in place with just four driver placings still available across three teams.
Williams however are the biggest talking points out of the three teams with vacant driver seats with Nicholas Latifi hotly tipped to retain his seat, whilst debate reigns across the paddock as to whether Alex Albon or Nyck De Vries will fill Russell’s seat.
Albon is the favourite to secure the race seat due to his previous F1 experience but rumours suggest that he would have to cut all ties with Red Bull, if he wishes to take up the drive due to Williams running Mercedes power units and the latter being in direct competition with Red Bull on the title fronts.
Should Albon refuse to cut all ties to Red Bull then reigning Formula E champion, De Vries is widely tipped to move across after winning the latest season of the all-electric car series for Mercedes last month.
De Vries’ F1 dreams however don’t rest solely in Williams’ hands because should Albon indeed join the British outfit, the Dutchman could well join Bottas at Alfa Romeo although the Italian constructor is reportedly considering promoting their junior star – Theo Pourchaire instead.
Elsewhere, Lance Stroll is widely expected to renew his Aston Martin contract despite his seat for next season currently being vacant at time of writing, which would see the Canadian again partner Sebastian Vettel for a second consecutive season.
Here are the current 2022 driver line-ups in full following latest developments.
|Alfa Romeo||Valtteri Bottas||TBA|
|AlphaTauri||Pierre Gasly||Yuki Tsunoda|
|Alpine||Esteban Ocon||Fernando Alonso|
|Aston Martin||TBA||Sebastian Vettel|
|Ferrari||Charles Leclerc||Carlos Sainz|
|Haas||Nikita Mazepin||Mick Schumacher|
|McLaren||Lando Norris||Daniel Ricciardo|
|Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||George Russell|
|Red Bull||Max Verstappen||Sergio Perez|