Mercedes made the decision to sign George Russell as the replacement driver for Valtteri Bottas following the end of the Finn’s contract with the German outfit. The Brit will link up with his compatriot Lewis Hamilton for the 2022 campaign in a bid to extend Mercedes’ dominance at the top of the Constructors’ Championship that has seen the team win the crown for the last eight years in a row.
Lots of Pressure
There is an element of pressure arriving at such a highly successful team and Russell will be under the spotlight to maintain the high standards set by his predecessors Bottas and Nico Rosberg in the number two seat. Following his move to Mercedes, Russell has seen his price dramatically improve to win the Drivers’ Championship, being backed at +600 in the Formula One betting odds to win the crown.
A lot will hinge on the decision of Hamilton, who has yet to confirm that he will return for the 2022 season after his agonizing defeat to Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship in the final race of the 2021 campaign. Russell will have to settle into his role at his new team, which is behind Hamilton in the number two seat. It was a position that Bottas played to perfection, and Rosberg went one better by proving that the number two driver can thrive to win the crown.
Mercedes have taken a gamble with Russell given his lack of experience and success to date in his career. Lando Norris has enjoyed a lot more joy on the track in his fledgling career with McLaren, finishing second in the Italian Grand Prix last season after Hamilton and Verstappen collided. He also notched podiums in the Emilia Romagna, Monaco and Austrian Grand Prix. The 22-year-old capped a solid campaign by placing sixth in the Drivers’ Championship, displaying a steady growth from his previous two seasons at the highest level.
Russell has recorded only one podium place in his three seasons in the sport, which came in the 2021 season at the Belgian Grand Prix. The Brit was outstanding throughout the week and notched second place on the grid in qualifying ahead of Hamilton. He managed to finish second behind Verstappen, after the race was called off after two laps, to secure his breakthrough at the highest level. The 23-year-old was unable to sustain his level of performance for the rest of the season, placing in the top-10 only twice in the final 10 races. His career with Williams ended on a low note with back-to-back retirements in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Russell will have to hit the ground running with Mercedes to maintain their high standards. Although Bottas was not a perennial challenge, he was extremely consistent and was a proven performer even before his move to the German outfit. The Finn finished fourth and fifth in the Drivers’ Championship standings in the 2014 and 2015 campaigns respectively, which gave the team evidence that he could elevate his game. Bottas did not disappoint but did not exceed expectations during his time with Mercedes.
There will be hope for Russell to push to a level past that given Hamilton’s future in the sport. At the age of 36, Hamilton will not be around for much longer. Mercedes will be looking for Russell to make his mark and prove that he can be a suitable heir to his compatriot, starting in the 2022 campaign.