Wolff has made Mercedes F1 driver decision
By Mat Coch
Sunday 29th August, 2021 - 4:03am
Toto Wolff has admitted that he’s made a decision on who will partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in Formula 1 next season, but was not ready to make the news public.
Valtteri Bottas and George Russell are in the frame for the drive, with neither willing to be drawn on the topic when asked about the situation on Thursday.
Put on the spot at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, Mercedes team boss Wolff responded simply “yes” when asked if he’d made a decision on his team’s 2022 driver line up.
Wolff’s response came following qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, a session in which Russell starred to put his Williams second on the grid.
The young Brit is viewed by many as the long-term replacement for Lewis Hamilton, and an aggressive option for Mercedes as a result.
However, Bottas offers a known quantity and has helped deliver the squad four constructors’ championships since joining the marque in 2017.
The Finn has also been linked with a move back to Williams, a direct swap for Russell, along with moves to other teams.
Exactly what Wolff’s decision is remains unclear, though he added that Russell’s Saturday performance did not factor in the equation.
“Today doesn’t make any difference,” he said.
“We know what we have with George; he’s been outstanding in the junior categories, he’s been outstanding at Williams, he has been outstanding when he was with us in Bahrain.
“If I needed to have that ultimate proof then something would have been wrong,” he added
“But the decision is also considering other factors and that’s why [it has not been announced].”
The seat alongside Hamilton is the most competitive of those available in Formula 1.
Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, and Alpine have all confirmed their drivers for 2022, while Aston Martin and Haas are expected to confirm unchanged pairings in the coming weeks.
That leaves only Williams and Sauber with potential seats, the latter potentially having two openings with Kimi Raikkonen yet to decide if he wants to continue and Antonio Giovinazzi on notice.
Should Russell move the Mercedes there’s at least one drive available at Williams, though there are no guarantees for Nicholas Latifi in the second car.
Callum Ilott has been heavily linked with a drive at Sauber, while Nyck de Vries is firming as a favourite for Williams.
With Bottas or Russell filling one of the two remaining seats it leaves little room for the likes of Latifi, Giovinazzi, Oscar Piastri, and Guanyu Zhou, among others.
At Mercedes, Wolff admitted the respective futures of both drivers was a consideration when making a decision.
“If it would have been a easy decision, we would have made it earlier because we know what we have with Valtteri and we know what we have with George,” he explained.
“Both of them deserve to be looked after in the best possible way because both of them are part of the family and we hold them up high.
“There are pros and cons like with any driver line up and at the end, there is no such thing as a perfect discussion.
“We just need to manage the situation well with whichever driver is not going to be in a Mercedes next year and make sure that there is an exciting programme.”