Wolff 'touched base' over Russell's Williams future - The Race
Formula 1

Wolff ‘touched base’ over Russell’s Williams future

Oct 24 2020

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff says “we touched base” with Williams over George Russell’s future amid speculation he could be replaced for 2021, but says it is Williams’s decision.

Russell and team-mate Nicholas Latifi have contracts to drive for Williams again in 2021. Both have stated this is unaffected by Williams being sold to Dorilton Capital since they were announced as the team’s 2021 drivers.

However, it is understood that Williams has held some talks with Sergio Perez’s representatives as the Mexican is out of a drive for next year after losing his seat to Sebastian Vettel.

On Friday ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Williams acting team principal Simon Roberts refused multiple opportunities to confirm Russell and Latifi will drive again in 2021.

He said: “There’s so much speculation around, I don’t want to inadvertently fuel it, someone will take some nuance of whatever we say, so we’re happy.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Portuguese Grand Prix Practice Day Portimao, Portugal

Russell is a Mercedes protege who was loaned to Williams on a multi-year deal after winning back-to-back titles in GP3 and Formula 2.

The Briton is yet to be outqualified by a team-mate in F1 after dominating the returning Robert Kubica in Williams’s dismal 2019 season, and has held a comfortable advantage over rookie team-mate Latifi this season.

Wolff said: “At the end, it’s Williams’s decision.

“We all know about George’s capabilities, he is a star of the future, and remains unbeaten by his team-mates in Formula 1, sometimes is able to show highlights in a car that is not competitive at the moment. And he is a great team asset.

“But then obviously there is a financial reality that I cannot judge at all. And it’s absolutely the discretion of the new owners and Simon to decide what they want to do going forward.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Practice Day Nurbugring, Germany

Asked if there had been any contact about George’s future, Wolff said: “Yeah, we touched base about George but at the end, like I said, it’s their call.”

Wolff has long been an advocate of Russell and talked him up as a potential future Mercedes driver.

His comments were therefore the second occasion on Friday a key figure in Russell’s situation was unable to guarantee his 2021 situation.

However, this is likely to be because Wolff feels it is Williams’s responsibility to comment definitively about Russell’s contractual status, rather than his.

There is also no guarantee that Russell would be the driver to make way should Williams commit to signing Perez, as the Mexican’s financial backing would offset some of the loss of ousting Latifi and he would represent an upgrade as a driver too.

Russell spent 2018 dovetailing his title-winning F2 season with a role as Mercedes’ test and reserve driver, a role he could theoretically return to if the remote possibility of him being sidelined next year came to pass.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Budapest, Hungary

But when Russell spoke at Algarve on Thursday, he had to address the same speculation as his team and Wolff, and insisted he was not concerned.

“I have a contract for next year,” said Russell. “With the new owners coming in, nothing has changed whatsoever from a contractual perspective

“I’ve actually not spoken to the new owners about it because, from my side, there’s no concern.

“They’ll all be here this weekend. I’m sure any air will be cleared, but I’m not concerned that I won’t be on the grid next year here with Williams.”

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