George Russell’s move to partner Lewis Hamilton next season is expected to be formally confirmed by Mercedes on Tuesday after Valtteri Bottas announced he is to join Alfa Romeo.
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, had made it clear the seat alongside Hamilton was between Russell and the incumbent Bottas and so Bottas’s announcement on Monday confirms the Briton has the place. The 23-year-old from King’s Lynn is in his third season at Williams but is a member of the Mercedes young driver programme and was expected to be given a seat with the team at some point. Russell has been hugely impressive in his opening three seasons in F1, qualified and raced well in a car that has been well off the pace.
Bottas has been Hamilton’s partner at Mercedes since Nico Rosberg surprised the team by retiring after winning the 2016 title. The Finn performed well, with nine wins and 17 poles, finishing second to Hamilton in 2019 and 2020. However, this season he has not been as effective and was criticised by other drivers after causing a crash at the Hungarian GP. His best finish was second place and he has not been in the mix at the front enough to make a difference in Hamilton’s title fight with Max Verstappen. The Dutchman currently, who leads the championship by three points.
Mercedes have won the last seven consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles but with a resurgent Red Bull and new regulations coming next year, will need a very strong driver lineup. Hamilton has been clear he has very much enjoyed having Bottas as a teammate and would have wanted him to continue, however with the world champion coming toward the end of his career, Mercedes have opted to bring in his potential successor.
Wolff said the decision to drop Bottas had not been made lightly. “This hasn’t been an easy process or a straightforward decision for us. Valtteri has done a fantastic job over the past five seasons and he has made an essential contribution to our success and to our growth.
“Together with Lewis, he has built a benchmark partnership between two teammates in the sport and that has been a valuable weapon in our championship battles and pushed us to achieve unprecedented success. He would absolutely have deserved to stay with the team, and I am pleased that he has been able to choose an exciting challenge with Alfa next year.”
Hamilton said: “I’m immensely proud to have worked alongside Valtteri for the last five years. He has been the best teammate I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
“Your speed and resilience has been impressive but where you truly stand out to me is the human being you are and gentleman. You are greater than you know and I know there’s a bright future ahead for you. You will be missed.”
Bottas has agreed a multi-year deal with Alfa Romeo to replace Kimi Raikkonen who announced last week he will retire at the end of the season. Bottas’s teammate has yet to be confirmed with current driver Antonio Giovinazzi’s contract up at the end of this season.
“I am so proud of everything we have achieved together in my time with Mercedes and it is not over yet, because we have our biggest challenge so far to try and claim our eighth constructors’ title,” Bottas said. “When I look back on my time with Mercedes, I want to be able to say that I squeezed every drop out of this opportunity and left nothing on the table; and I want to make sure that we finish our time together as champions.”