George Russell confirmed as Lewis Hamilton's 2022 team-mate as he joins Mercedes on long-term contract; Russell, 23, has been a Mercedes junior driver since 2017 and finally gets his chance after three seasons in F1 with Williams.
George Russell will join Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton's next team-mate, with the world champions confirming their all-British 2022 driver line-up. Earning his chance with the team who first signed him as a junior driver before supporting his three brilliant seasons in F1 with Williams, Russell, 23, will be Hamilton's sixth - and youngest - team-mate in the sport.
Mercedes say Russell has signed a "long-term contract" with the team. He replaces Valtteri Bottas, who is moving to Alfa Romeo after five seasons with Mercedes. "It's a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands," said Russell, who also paid tribute to Williams. "But I'm under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it's going to be a steep learning curve."
Toto Wolff added: "He has been a winner in every racing category - 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."
Russell's signing follows tough deliberation from Mercedes as they weighed the known quantity of Bottas - who has challenged but not beaten seven-time champion Hamilton over a season - versus their rising F1 star.
In the end they opted for the man who as well as shining down the grid at Williams, starred in his one-off appearance in the Mercedes when filling in for Hamilton last December in Bahrain. It results in F1's first all-British driver line-up since Hamilton partnered Jenson Button at McLaren before joining Mercedes in 2013.
Since then, Hamilton's team-mates have been Nico Rosberg, who he had an increasingly fierce rivalry with before the German retired after his title win in 2016, and Bottas, who restored harmony at Mercedes and who Hamilton recently hailed as his "best team-mate" in the sport. Russell has spoken glowingly about joining Hamilton, his idol and the most successful driver in F1 history.
"I've looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being," he added.
Not turning 24 until just before his debut season with F1's world champions, Russell is another member of the sport's impressive and ultra-fast next generation. And since joining Mercedes' junior programme in 2017, the Norfolk-born racer has passed every test thrown his way with flying colours. Russell won both the GP3 (2017) and Formula 2 titles (2018) before making the step up to F1 with Williams in 2019, effectively on loan from Mercedes.
Consistently outperforming a car that has often been the slowest on the grid, Russell has earned plenty of plaudits and, while only scoring his first points for the team at this year's Hungarian GP, has - astonishingly - never been beaten in qualifying by a Williams team-mate.
His front-row-securing qualifying lap at last month's Belgian GP, meanwhile, was hailed as one of the greatest F1 laps of all-time. Russell also gave a tantalising taste of what he could do in a Mercedes when filling in for Hamilton, sidelined with Covid, at the 2020 Sakhir GP, leading the race and beating Bottas until cruel tyre issues cost him. By that point, Mercedes had also made their decision to retain Bottas for 2021.
But Russell now gets his opportunity to shine. While he will want to become the first team-mate to beat Hamilton over a season since Rosberg, he will also be tasked with retaining a strong team bond with Hamilton, with Mercedes keen to avoid a return to intra-team rivalry.
Mercedes have not specified the length of Russell's contract, but Hamilton is signed up until at least the end of 2023 and the team have spoken of their confidence of Hamilton, 36, extending his stay even further.
Author: Matt Morlidge