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  • Reese Mautone

F1 Silly Season Kicks Off

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Valtteri Bottas' move to Alfa Romeo Racing seemingly confirms predictions of George Russell to Mercedes. From this news comes tough decisions, rehashed tensions, and second chances... but what does this mean for our 2022 grid?

Following the announcement of 2007 World Champion, Kimi Räikkönen's retirement, Valtteri Bottas has confirmed his rumoured move to the Swiss team Alfa Romeo Racing for 2022 and beyond. Bottas' new contract comes with the support of a multi-year deal, seeing him staying with the team and "help[ing] Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN make a step forward towards the front of the grid", according to Team Principal, Fred Vasseur.

Bottas' relationship with Vasseur played an important role in the transition from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo Racing. Dating back to F3 and GP3 campaigns, Bottas and Vasseur have shared a successful history, hoping to continue this trend into 2022 with Bottas' strong ability as a driver, and leader.

According to first reports, the Fin was Williams' first choice driver, declining a seat at the British-based Mercedes-backed team. Additionally, the news of who Bottas' will be teammate is yet to be revealed; however, the Swiss team is no longer required to employ a Ferrari-associated driver, leaving doors open for a completely new driver line-up, or the re-signing of current Italian Alfa Romeo driver, Antonio Giovanazzi.

Yet, this news rather confirms more than it directly states. Bottas' move leaves a highly desired seat free, alongside 7x World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, with all signs pointing towards one driver in particular to fill it: George Russell.

The first race back after the summer break gifted Russell with his maiden F1 podium, earning P2 on the basis of his impressive front-row qualifying result on the Saturday, with a little help from Spa's dreadfully persistent weather. The 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix saw Mercedes and Russell give fans a teaser of what could be to come in 2022, hopefully with a more positive outcome, but nonetheless, works to highlight the already strong and efficient partnership between the two.

Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, has been abundantly clear in stating that the line-up had been internally confirmed for some time now. Understandably, word travels quickly in the F1 paddock, especially when involving a hot seat at a top team. Recently, when asked in an interview with former F1 World Champion Jenson Button on when Russell expects to earn his maiden win, the Williams driver replied with "next year", indirectly hinting at a move up the ranks. Seemingly, this interview just about confirmed Russell's future to fans of the sport, following congratulations from Red Bull Team Principal, Christian Horner, and paddock jokester/Mclaren F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo.

“I think we know what we have with George, who has been outstanding in the junior drivers, who has been outstanding in a Williams, he has been outstanding in Bahrain, and if I needed to have that ultimate proof then something would have been wrong. The decision is considering other factors.” Wolff added after qualifying in Belgium.

Alike with the relationship Valtteri Bottas and Fred Vasseur have built over time, George Russell and Toto Wolff too share a professional history together. Russell is in his third year of F1 having just reached the 50 races milestone, and is a member of the Mercedes junior driver programme, having worked closely with the team and Wolff for quite some time now, finally beginning to reap the reward of this relationship.

All this shuffling, signing and retiring leave a few seats open, a rarity in the competitive world of Formula 1. Over the past months, many names have been thrown in the mix, but none so promising as Nyck De Vries and Alex Albon. Potentially, there could be seats open for the both of them with spaces at Williams, according to Toto Wolff, despite Russell's move not being confirmed, and of course at Alfa Romeo, with Giovanazzi yet to re-sign.

De Vries comes off of a championship win in Formula E with Mercedes, whilst Albon's case is only strengthened by his maiden win in DTM with Alpha Tauri last month. It would be a 50/50 chance between the two drivers if the decision was to be solely based on talent, however, other aspects come into play.

Williams' ties with Mercedes put Albon, who previously raced for Red Bull in F1, is their current reserve driver, and also races with Alpha Tauri's DTM team, at a supposed disadvantage, given the unspoken tension between the two front-running constructors. De Vries works closely with the championship-winning team in Formula E where he has experienced much success of the course over the 2021 season.

"We’ll be supportive of [Albon] racing elsewhere," Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner made clear in response to being asked if Red Bull would accept a seat from an F1 team outside of Red Bull or their sister-team, AlphaTauri. Amid rumours of Mercedes working to 'block' the Thai driver, Horner vocalised his dismay adding that he "hope[s] that Mercedes don’t prevent that from happening. [Albon] deserves that chance. So [Red Bull are] doing [their] best to help him and we’ll see what happens."

It wouldn't be 'Silly Season' in Formula 1 without surprises, rumours and tensions running high, and there's absolutely no reason why 2021 won't be the same!

1 opmerking

02 okt. 2021

oh the way we all knew that George was gonna be in that merc seat some day

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