September 07, (THEWILL) – The expected announcement of George Russell, race driver for Williams, partnering with Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team next season came after it became clear that Valtteri Bottas was joining Alfa Romeo as THEWILL reported on Monday.
Russell, who has enjoyed a successful 2021 season so far, became a Formula 2 champion in 2018 before joining Mercedes ahead of the 2019 season. As THEWILL reported in December last year, the British race driver took Hamilton’s place at Mercedes for the Sakhir Grand Prix after the seven-time champion tested positive for coronavirus.
Mercedes had backed Russell’s career since 2017 and he was effectively on a three-year loan at Williams where he continued to post some impressive races since making his F1 debut in the 2019 season.
A statement from Mercedes said: “His work ethic and performance have continued to impress during his three seasons with Williams.”He is now ready to make the step to Mercedes and to continue his career development alongside Lewis Hamilton, after signing a long-term contract with the team.”
The 23-year-old, who was delighted with the opportunity, 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.
“It has been an honour working alongside every member of the team, and an honour to represent the Williams name in F1.
“Since I joined in 2019, we have worked tirelessly to push each other forward and bring the team back up the grid where it belongs. 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.
“Looking ahead to next season, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve. Valtteri has set a high bar, consistently delivering week in and week out, scoring wins, pole positions and helping win multiple championship titles.”
Russell did not shy away from idolizing his partner-to-be at Mercedes, Hamilton. He made it very obvious when he added: “I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being.
“For now, though, I have nine more races as a Williams driver, and I want to make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team. Then, and only then, can I turn my attention to 2022. A huge thank you to Williams, to Mercedes and to everyone who has supported me in getting to where I am today. I couldn’t have done it without every single one of you.”
The move had been on the cards since Russell impressed the Mercedes Team while Hamilton recovered from contracting COVID-19. For the management, there was no second-guessing the move, although they waited for Bottas to secure a contract first.
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team principal said: “He has been a winner in every racing category – and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1. Now, it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time.
“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.”