George Russell’s pace throughout the weekend and his strong drive in the Sakhir Grand Prix have unquestionably boosted his stock in the F1 paddock, despite him finishing the race down in P9 due to a mistake by the Mercedes pit crew and a subsequent slow puncture.
Not only did he almost match Valtteri Bottas in qualifying, he pulled off several great overtakes on Sunday and appeared to be in command of the race and well on course to winning his first Formula One grand prix.
Given the immense disappointment Russell experienced at Sakhir, it’s not surprising that most of the F1 community is hoping that he will be given another chance with the Silver Arrows at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In fact, his performance in Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes W11 has even raised speculation about him moving to the team in 2021 despite him having a contract with Williams and Toto Wolff saying they are looking to retain Bottas and Hamilton next season.
Speaking to Formula1News.co.uk on Monday, ex-F1 driver Marc Surer said he wasn’t surprised by Russell’s strong performance, but he isn’t expecting Mercedes to drop Bottas to give the young Brit a seat.
“Russell’s performance was as expected and not a surprise, because if you look back at his career in Formula Three and Formula Two and even in the Williams, he was showing his talent. And now, in the best car, he proved that he’s a super talent,” Surer said.
“But I think Mercedes is not the kind of team that would drop a driver. I think Bottas lost a bit of confidence since Turkey when he performed very bad and all of these two weekends at Bahrain he was not himself. He was always making mistakes, I think he’s underperforming.”
Continuing, the former racing driver said: “So, as I know Mercedes, I don’t think they will drop a driver just because he is underperforming for a moment, because they know he is a loyal, good second driver for Lewis Hamilton.”
Surer added that this is exactly what Mercedes want – and Hamilton is almost certainly opposed to having a driver of Russell’s talent as his team-mate, as it would be much more difficult for him to win races and titles.
“And this is the point. I don’t think Lewis wants a driver like Russell next to him, as it will make his life difficult. He will probably steal points [from him] and will not be such a nice team-mate when he wants to win his eighth F1 title.
“So I think nothing will change and Russell will have to wait one more year to join Mercedes,” the ex-F1 driver concluded.