Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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Toto Wolff and the Mercedes board have spent months agonising over who should partner Lewis Hamilton in 2022. The Silver Arrows could choose stability in the form of current racer Valtteri Bottas, or bring in fresh blood and a man tipped to be a future F1 champion in George Russell.
Russell did his chances of promotion no harm with a superb performance at the Belgian Grand Prix, where he put his Williams on the front row in qualifying, which was enough to secure the young Brit a maiden F1 podium when terrible weather conditions at Spa saw the race abandoned.
It remains to be seen how much that result has swayed Wolff’s thinking, but it has convinced one F1 boss that Russell is ready to step up.
Ross Brawn, a former team principal and the sport’s current managing director of motorsport, believes Mercedes now have no choice but to put the 23-year-old in a car in which he can regularly fight at the top of the standings.
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In his post-race column, Brawn said: “We all know George Russell has a fantastic talent. We have seen it a lot at Williams, and we saw it amplified at Mercedes, when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.
“George’s performance reminded me a lot of Fernando Alonso when he drove at a wet Spa for Minardi in 2001. He was mighty impressive in a car that clearly was not up to the job. In those conditions, the ratio of driver to car changes – and we saw that with George on Saturday.
“He doesn’t have a front row car but in those tricky conditions in qualifying, he trounced people with far better cars than he had. In my view, there is only one decision for Mercedes next year with regards the second seat.”
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It comes as a report emerged claiming Bottas might struggle to find a seat in F1 for 2022 if he is replaced at Mercedes by Russell.
Williams are said to be targeting Red Bull’s Alexander Albon as the Briton’s replacement if he leaves, thrusting the original assumption that Bottas would rejoin his old team into doubt.
Red Bull have handed Sergio Perez a contract extension to race alongside Max Verstappen, meaning Albon’s hopes of being given another shot there in 2022 have ended.
But team boss Christian Horner is keen to get the British-Thai racer back into the sport, and is said to have offered him to both Williams and Alfa Romeo as an option for next season.
Other options said to be under consideration by Williams include Formula E champion Nyck de Vries and Alpine youngster Guanyu Zhou.
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