Russell comfortable with F1 future
By Mat Coch
Thursday 8th April, 2021 - 10:39am
George Russell’s substitute performance at last year’s Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix has left the Brit comfortable with his position on the grid.
The Williams regular was drafted into the factory Mercedes team in place of Lewis Hamilton for the penultimate race of 2020 after the seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID.
Russell put in something of a starring role, leading the race before a calamitous pitstop followed by a puncture ruined his chance of victory.
The performance was enough to spark speculation that he could join Mercedes for 2021, ousting Valtteri Bottas despite the Finn holding a one-year contract.
Speedcafe.com revealed last July that Russell had signed a contract that would keep him at Williams for the coming season.
It meant the Sakhir outing came too late to influence 2021, but Russell suggests it has done much to help his longer term future.
Both Bottas and Hamilton are out of contract at the end of the year, opening the door for the 23-year-old to potentially land one of the seats.
“I had such a unique opportunity last year in Bahrain that I’m in a very comfortable position,” Russell told Sky Sports.
“That race was massive for myself and I think it gives me the opportunity now to sit back, relax, and really focus on the driving, and what will happen will happen.
“I’d like to think I managed to show what I could do in a frontrunning car.
“Mercedes are my mentors, my managers, and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes in 2022.
“But I think, like I said, that opportunity for me was huge and perhaps I would have been going about it slightly differently if I didn’t have that opportunity last year.”
Russell is part of Mercedes’ junior driver programme, a winner of the GP3 Series in 2017 (on debut), a feat he repeated when he stepped up to Formula 2 the following year.
He’s scored just three points in his 39 Formula 1 starts, though 38 of those have come at the wheel of a Williams.
The one exception was the Sakhir Grand Prix, when he ended a tumultuous race in ninth after starting on the front row.
Russell finished 14th in opening race of the 2021 campaign, the Bahrain Grand Prix, a lap down on race-winner Hamilton.
Round 2 of the season heads it the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on the Imola circuit on April 16-18.