George Russell sent Lewis Hamilton warning about Valtteri Bottas battle for Mercedes seat

George Russell ‘gutted’ to miss out on Sakhir GP victory

George Russell has been warned he must emulate Lewis Hamilton’s high standards if he is to battle Valterri Bottas for a Mercedes seat. Rising star Russell has been tipped for a move to Mercedes in 2022 with the future of F1 stars Hamilton and Bottas uncertain.

Williams ace Russell impressed when he stood in for Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix last year after Hamilton tested positive for coronavirus.

The 22-year-old looked on course to win but for a pit stop calamity and a puncture costing him victory.

His performance put him firmly on the radar of Toto Wolff who will have a big decision to make on his Mercedes driver line-up for 2022.

Bottas will race for Mercedes in 2021 but is out of contract at the end of the season, and has hinted he could “explore something new” next year.

And some fans have demanded that Russell replace Hamilton for Mercedes in 2021, with the seven-time world champion technically a free agent until he signs a new contract.

But Wolff has warned Russell about the high standards he must contantly achieve if he is to drive for the marque – with no-one having been more consistent than Hamilton over his remarkable career.

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“Winning Formula One championships is about making the least amount of mistakes. And that only comes with routine and experience,” the Mercedes boss told Motorsport.

“Mercedes expects these kind of sustainable performance levels. And that’s why you need to give young drivers time.

“Because as exuberant as they may be perceived after the performance that we’ve seen [at the Sakhir GP] from George, at the same time, young drivers will be criticised, and criticised quickly, when they make mistakes in such a high pressure environment like a top team.

“That’s why making experiences like in Imola, and the learnings from that, are very important to form a driver that can perform at a sustainable high level.

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“We believed in George because there’s not many drivers out there that have won junior championships as rookies, especially not the very competitive GP3 and F2 championships.

“For us, [using him as replacement for Hamilton] was a possibility to confirm what we were thinking about George. It was unfortunate that this opportunity came with Lewis having been out.

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“I would have wished it would have happened in a different way, but it gave us a set of data points to look at. And in a way it affirmed how we judged him.

“It was also an advantage for him and Williams. He was going to go back to his team with a lot of learning, with more understanding. And this is why I think for him personally and for Williams, it was advantageous.”

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