SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP)Valtteri Bottas and George Russell are still waiting to find out who will be driving alongside Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season.
Bottas’ contract with the team hasn’t yet been renewed for 2022, while Russell, who drives for Williams but came up through the Mercedes system, is being touted as a possible replacement.
”There’s no news to share. I don’t need to clarify any reason for that,” Bottas said curtly at the Belgian GP on Thursday. ”It is nothing new to me. Things will eventually sort themselves out and then we’ll see.”
The 23-year-old Russell has been part of the Mercedes young driver program since 2017 and is highly rated within the team. He was allowed to sign for Williams, but Mercedes can bring him back for next season if they want.
He impressed when he replaced Hamilton at Mercedes for one race last season after the F1 champion contracted the coronavirus. Russell finished second at the Sakhir GP and even came close to victory.
The way he outperformed Bottas in that race raised questions as to whether Mercedes should make a move for him.
”We both trust (Mercedes) to look after our futures one way or another. Whether it’s tomorrow, whether it’s after (the last race in) Abu Dhabi,” Russell said. ”It’s better to do things right rather than quickly.”
But the British driver would relish the chance to test himself against Hamilton, who is chasing a record-extending 100th F1 win on Sunday.
”Any drivers would want to go against the best and Lewis is probably the greatest of all time. You would want to pit yourself against him and see how you fare,” Russell said. ”It’s obviously hypothetical at the moment. As I said three years ago, if I could choose to race against anybody as my teammate, Lewis would be the one.”
Bottas and Russell sat next to each other as they spoke on Thursday. In April, they were involved in a high-speed crash at the Emilia-Romagna GP.
Both drivers were furious in the aftermath with Bottas flicking his middle finger at Russell, who responded by swatting the Finnish driver on the helmet with his hand.
Russell said he had put the incident behind him.
”Our personal relationship is fine. It’s rare that two competitors are best friends,” he said. ”But we’ve moved on from everything in the past. From my side at least.”
Hamilton has formed a strong working relationship with Bottas since the Finnish driver joined in 2017, following 2016 F1 champion Nico Rosberg’s unexpected retirement.
”I’ve obviously been vocal in the past about my loyalty to Valtteri,” Hamilton said. ”I think our working relationship is better than ever.”
But Bottas has not won a race this season and is only fourth in the standings.
”At the end of the day it’s down to him (team principal Toto Wolff) and the (Mercedes) board to make that decision,” Hamilton said. ”I’m a part of the team and support them whichever way they go.”
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