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Explained: Why George Russell is driving for Mercedes?

Jake Nichol August 3, 2021
F1 Grand Prix of Hungary
Photo by Florion Goga - Pool/Getty Images

Amid speculation that George Russell is about to be promoted to drive alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022, the British driver will get a run out with the world champions today, but why will he drive the Formula One championship leading car?

Russell selected for driving duties

Russell, the 2018 Formula 2 champion, is a Mercedes protégé, and has long been earmarked for a promotion from Williams to Mercedes.

Alongside racing for Williams, 23-year-old Russell is often drafted into Mercedes to complete testing mid-season in place of regular drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

He is completing a one-day test for the seven-time world champions in a mule car as it helps F1 tyre supplier Pirelli in development work.

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The Italian manufacturer is undergoing testing with the new 18 inch wheels that will come into F1 from next season.

Hamilton completed a similar test for Pirelli earlier in the season at Imola.

Due to the new budget caps in F1, restricting what teams can spend per year, the bigger teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull undertaking such testing as to not overly burden teams with smaller budgets, such as Russell’s Williams squad.

Will Russell get the Mercedes seat after the test?

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff must decide soon whether to promote Russell from Williams, or stick with incumbent Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas, a winner of nine grands prix with the team, has endured a tricky season, while Russell has impressed with Williams.

He advanced to the final stage of qualifying in Austria and at Silverstone, and scored his first points for Williams in Sunday’s Hungarian GP.

Wolff has indicated he will take F1’s summer break as a chance to consider both options, with a decision possible when F1 reconvenes at Spa at the end of August.

Russell has driven once for Mercedes in a grand prix, when he stood in for Hamilton in the 2020 Sakhir GP after the world champion tested positive for covid-19.

Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images

In the race, Russell impressed and was contention for a victory, but a Mercedes pitstop gaffe and later puncture prevented him from doing so.

He finished in ninth place, and recorded fastest lap to score what were his first points in F1.

When does F1 return?

F1 teams are now forced by regulation to take a two-week break throughout August before the next race at Spa in Belgium.

That event takes place on Sunday, August 29th, before races in Holland and Italy round out a triple-header of grands prix.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.