Many had tipped Bottas to lose his seat the moment Russell out performed him at the Sakhir GP in 2020.
If there is any doubt about who will be driving for Mercedes next year, considering both of its drivers are out of contract. Now comes a report which claims that Mercedes has already locked its highly regarded junior driver George Russell for a two-year contract where he will be replacing Valtteri Bottas. Already, there has been enough smoke in the paddock about Russell replacing Bottas ever since Russell put on a stunning display in the Sakhir GP last year where he subbed for a COVID ridden Hamilton. Russell nearly snatched the pole from Bottas while overtook him at the start. He didn’t win the race because of another botched pitstop by the team in jet black. However, Russell and Bottas again found themselves dulling at Imola which ended up in a scary crash. Both the drivers weren’t happy with each other till finally, Russell took responsibility for the accident.
Now Alexey Popov has spilt the beans on what’s going on inside Mercedes which could be one of the reasons for the morbid behaviour of the Finnish driver. Bottas has already fallen behind Hamilton and Verstappen in 2021, in fact, he’s even behind Lando Norris which means his desire to become world champion will likely not be fulfilled.
“They told me that Russell moving to Mercedes for at least two years, and not in Hamilton’s place, is already practically done,” said Popov, who also believes Bottas could swap Russell’s seat at Williams. “That’s just my guess, but the fact that Russell will be in the Mercedes is almost certain,” he stated hinting at Charles Leclerc / Kimi Raikkonen like a switch that happened at Ferrari in 2019.
This may not be the worst thing for Bottas as with the new Dorliton Capital investment in Williams, the team is looking more competitive than ever. The F1 rules changes and the budget cap will make sure the field converges which could play into the hands of some of the smaller teams as the big three – Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull have had two go through painful restructuring exercises which could impact the competitiveness. The tough world championship fight between Red Bull and Mercedes could also hold them back.