Russell defends Bottas, praises Mercedes for not rushing to axe him

George Russell will partner Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022 following the departure of Valtteri Bottas.

George Russell and Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes team-mates.v1

George Russell had commended his new team for the loyalty they showed his predecessor Valtteri Bottas during his five years with the team.

The Finn signed to the German manufacturer ahead of the 2017 season after Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement having just won his one and only world title.

Bottas had scored nine podiums in the first three years of the hybrid era with Williams, having scored his first Formula 1 points in Texas in 2013.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who was also Bottas’ manager up until his signing, selected the 32-year-old as Rosberg’s replacement, and he would go on to race 101 times for the Silver Arrows.

He won ten of those grand prix, but often struggled during the opening stints of races, costing him victories and ultimately any meaningful title challenge.

What did not aid his cause was being partnered with Sir Lewis Hamilton, who won the championship in four of the five years they spent together as team-mates.

READ: Norris wants to go ‘wheel-to-wheel’ with Russell in 2022

The Finn would often find himself scrapping for podium places or sometimes lower while the 37-year-old contested victories.

A legacy of the Briton’s dominance was that Bottas was frequently forced to act as rear-gunner to Hamilton even when he was on par with him on pace.

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Wolff, in his own words, “robbed” Bottas of victory at the 2018 Russian Grand Prix when he ordered him to give the win to Hamilton.

Also detrimental was the fact that the 32-year-old was persistently signed to one-year contract extensions at the Brackley outfit, something that began to wear on his mind.

Valtteri Bottas in 2021 Qatar GP.v1

However, Russell has declared himself a fan of the loyalty Mercedes showed to the Nastola-born driver, especially when fans urged them to replace him.

“What I admire so much from Mercedes and Toto is how loyal they are to their own,” Russell said on the Motorsport Magazine podcast.

“Valtteri has been such a key figure, and key driver for them to help them achieve all of these championships along the way. There’s a lot of people [who] can say some negative things, or [say things about him] being off the pace of Lewis Hamilton.”

The 23-year-old recognises Bottas’ crucial involvement in helping Mercedes win the Constructors’ Championship in every year he spent with them.

“But he’s been an incredibly important part to all of that success, and they want to reward that loyalty,” he explained.

“And maybe if he went through one or two bad races throughout last year, they’re not just going to get the axe out and say, ‘Thank you very much, and see you later’.

“Because that’s not how they do things. They give people the full opportunity, and the full chance.”

Given the allegiance that Mercedes showed to Bottas, the Briton hopes it will extend to him now that he has joined the team.

“I’m a 23-year-old. From their side, there’s no need to rush. We’ve got the whole future ahead,” he stated.

“I guess that loyalty brings faith to me as a driver, equally to the 2000 employees that Mercedes have between Brackley and Brixworth.”

READ: Russell downplays importance of standing in for Hamilton

However, Russell is aware that this faith is still contingent on his effort and performances.

“If I work hard and I perform, they are going to reward me with that loyalty, and I don’t have to have any concerns about my job or my future. You probably go ahead and perform even better,” he explained.

As a result, Russell is confident that should he meet expectations, he will have a bright future at Mercedes.

“So I guess that’s what I really admire from those guys, and they certainly do things quite different to other teams down the grid. So I’ve got to be very grateful and thankful to have Toto as [my] boss, I’m sure.

“That loyalty that he’s shown Valtteri, if I perform, he’ll show to me and everybody else in the team when they do a good job.”

Much speculation has been made over whether Russell will be able to compete with Hamilton at Mercedes next year, and he has previously affirmed that he and his compatriot need to pull in the same direction to ensure the team succeeds under the new regulations.

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