George Russell and Mercedes have confirmed that the 23-year-old Englishman will drive for the Brackley-based team in F1 in 2022, partnering seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
The news comes a day after it was confirmed that current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas will leave the team at the end of the 2021 season after five years, to join Alfa Romeo in 2022, ending one of the longest-running contract sagas in F1 history and confirming one of Formula 1’s worst-kept secrets.
Russell, a Mercedes junior driver, has been racing for Williams for the last three seasons, and impressed many by dragging a very poor car into Q3 multiple times in 2020. He backed this up with his first two points scoring finishes for the team in Hungary and Belgium, including his first F1 podium in the rain-shortened race at Spa.
It will not be the first time Russell has driven, or even raced, a Mercedes F1 car. The Briton has stepped in multiple times for testing and demonstration duty, including at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, before replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 when the champion tested positive for Covid-19.
In that race he impressed many, qualifying second and leading most of the race before he was robbed of a debut win by a colossal pit-lane blunder by the Mercedes team – which saw him sent back out on the wrong tyres after a precautionary pit stop. While Russell was able to fight back to score his first F1 points, he was clearly devastated by losing the win, a performance which included a brilliant around-the-outside overtake on one-time team-mate Bottas.
“He has been a winner in every racing category,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “And the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1.
“Now, it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time.
“I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years ahead.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders to have our plans for 2022 clear and announced; but now, our focus returns to the final nine races of this season and putting everything into our challenge for this year’s world championships.”
Speaking of the move Russell said: “It's a special day for me personally and professionally, but also a day of mixed emotions.
“I’m excited and humbled to be joining Mercedes next year, which is a huge career step, but it also means I’ll be saying goodbye to my team-mates and friends at Williams. It has been an honour working alongside every member of the team, and an honour to represent the Williams name in F1. Since I joined in 2019, we have worked tirelessly to push each other forward and bring the team back up the grid where it belongs.
“We’ve battled for every qualifying position, every point, and every tenth of a second. No matter how tough it’s been, nobody has ever given up, and that has inspired me every day.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve. Valtteri has set a high bar, consistently delivering week in and week out, scoring wins, pole positions and helping win multiple championship titles. “
The move is just the latest in a string of confirmations for the 2022 grid that have come in the wake of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Before the race veteran Kimi Räikkönen confirmed that he would be leaving the sport at the end of the season, paving the way for Bottas to be confirmed at Alfa Romeo immediately after the race. Then AlphaTauri confirmed that it has retained the same line-up for 2022 before Russell’s move to Mercedes was announced.
The Williams seat that he vacates has still to be filled for the new season, with Mercedes and title rivals Red Bull appearing to fight a proxy war over the drive. Former Red Bull racer Alex Albon has been linked with the seat as well as Mercedes’ Formula E champion Nyck De Vries.
Today’s announcements leave the second seat at Alfa Romeo, one seat at Aston Martin, and both Haas and Williams seats still to be filled for 2022.