Toto Wolff will help Valtteri Bottas to find a F1 seat if he goes to pick George Russell for 2022, as Williams is not ruling out anybody at the moment.
The decision from Mercedes for its second F1 seat beyond 2021 has two key contenders with Bottas and Russell in the play. The former has been part of the team for multiple seasons now, while the latter is edging to make the jump into the big horizon.
Fortunately, Wolff sorted the deal with Lewis Hamilton and it is now to decide whether Bottas stays or Russell comes in. There has been mixed voices coming out from the paddock, where both of the drivers have been said to be ‘confirmed’ already.
However, Wolff has maintained that any decision will only be made around the summer break. So much so, the Austrian hinted on an outcome by Spa-Francorchamps weekend. “I think it’s important for Valtteri and George to know where they will be driving next year,” he said. That’s going to happen. I expect some questions in Spa.”
Wolff will sit down with both Bottas and Russell and see what’s best for Mercedes. Interestingly, when talking on a new line-up, he greeted it with the word ‘bold’. Considering the notion that Hamilton and Russell pairing may bring some divide, that could be seen a big step on the part of Mercedes.
The other meaning of ‘bold’ is putting faith on a youngster when in a F1 title fight. “Valtteri has ticked all the boxes that we needed to understand,” said Wolff. “Valtteri has speed, Valtteri has character and Valtteri is a team player, which is very important in the dynamics of a team. I feel that for the last few races he is very much positive in his approach and you can see that on track.
“He could have been on pole at Silverstone, if he would have had the slipstream. And he finished the race a few seconds behind the leaders, so he’s right up there and I’m happy to see that. He drove a really solid race, and just Lewis coming from behind on that hard tyre was just in another dimension to everybody on track.
“But Valtteri was the second quickest car out there and helped Lewis to secure the win. Valtteri is just a great team member, with the right character and right personality. And remember, it is not about proving a point, it is about us sticking our heads together here, and with Mercedes, to draw out the future of our driver lineup.
“We will take a decision over the summer and then we will decide when to communicate it. It is more of a strategic decision whether we stay with the current line-up or whether we go more bold next year. But we’re going to sit down with the drivers, with both of them – because George is a Mercedes driver – and then discuss and then come up with a decision,” summed up Wolff.
Even before anything can be decided, Bottas is already linked with Williams and also Alfa Romeo, where the situation with Kimi Raikkonen remains a question mark. The latter is showing good pace in the races, but his qualifying has been average, while Antonio Giovinazzi has been a mixed bag all-through so far.
With the links to Alfa Romeo getting more talked about, Wolff was asked if he would extend his support to find a seat for Bottas, who clearly wants to stay in F1. “If we were to come to the situation that we wanted to give somebody else a go, then it’s not only my relationship with him but also my responsibility that he has a great future.
“Because he deserves that. He has been the team mate of the best Formula 1 driver of all time and that is not always very easy to shine, but he’s fantastic,” said Wolff. The Williams seat, though, has several names popping up, but they are calm about the situation.
If we talk about the recent F1 drivers to exit the sport, Nico Hulkenberg, Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat, are the ones looking at the situation very closely. A wild rumour was also started on social media, linking Nyck de Vries to Williams.
There was no source of it, though, which not only surprised de Vries but also Wolff, who is present at Formula E’s London race. On the Austrian side, he stated that he wouldn’t come in the way of either the Dutchman and or Stoffel Vandoorne, if a F1 call comes up for them.
But the chances look slim for either at the moment. Williams, meanwhile, are also mum on the situation, but Jost Capito did not rule out anyone when asked if someone like Hulkenberg and few others without a seat will be a tasty option for them or not.
“I think at the moment we do not exclude any driver who would be available next year and Nico is available for next year, so we’ve got quite a long list,” said Capito. “The main thing is, we want to have the best drivers that are available and interested to drive for Williams and interested in doing the job for Williams. It’s not definitely the driver who wants to be world champion next year – for us, he would be in the wrong team.
“We need drivers who are willing to support the team, to get the team back, to lead the team, and to improve performance. At the moment we can see the interest in drivers to get to Williams is increasing I would say it’s because of the positive steps we’ve done recently.
“I think we are well-funded and this is known, and we getting the steps in the right direction, we hope we continue in this so we are working hard to continue in that and this makes Williams an interesting team for a driver to be there in the future,” summed up Capito.
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