The worst-kept secret in Formula One is set to be revealed officially this week with the impending announcement of George Russell's move to Mercedes.
The 23-year-old is being promoted from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas, who has ended his association with Mercedes after five years of driving alongside Lewis Hamilton.
Toto Wolff has decided fresh blood is needed at the Silver Arrows for 2022, with Red Bull breathing down their necks and a swathe of technical rule changes potentially making more teams competitive at the top of the standings next season.
So Russell will get his first chance at a title tilt in a competitive car, forming an exciting all-British line-up at Mercedes alongside seven-time world champion Hamilton.
Bottas has been a faithful partner to Hamilton since he made the switch from Williams himself for the 2017 campaign, but has only nine race wins in that time.
Mercedes need someone who can win races when Hamilton doesn't, and Wolff is confident Russell can be that man.
Bottas' departure to Alfa Romeo was announced on Monday, with confirmation of Russell's move to follow.
"I would like to thank @MercedesAMGF1 for the 5 years together," Bottas tweeted. "We have achieved quite some things, that I will never forget. And hey, we have still this season to Win! Let’s get it."
Speaking of his switch, he said: "A new chapter in my racing career is opening: I'm excited to join Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen for what is going to be a new challenge with an iconic manufacturer."
Lewis Hamilton tweeted: "I’m immensely proud to have worked alongside @ValtteriBottas for the last 5 yrs.
"We’ve been part of a team that has delivered 4 Constructors’ Championships and we’ve motivated one another to keep pushing through the ups & downs. Thank you VB, let’s finish strong."
While all parties have tried to be as tight-lipped as possible whenever questioned about the situation, hints have been dropped and most of the paddock seemed aware of the changes.
Speaking on Sky Sports, former world champion Nico Rosberg claimed camera's filming for Netflix's Drive to Survive series had been called into the office in the aftermath of the Dutch Grand Prix, to record Russell signing his new deal.
And Hamilton, who had previously voiced his preference to keep Bottas around to continue their fruitful partnership, changed his tune last week and began to rave about Russell.
"I honestly think it will be good [to have Russell as his teammate]," said Hamilton. "I think George is an incredibly talented driver, clearly.
"I think he's humble, I think he's got a great approach, naturally being British I would imagine probably helps, in terms of communication.
"I think he's already shown incredible driving so far, and I'm sure he’s going to continue to grow, so where better to do it than in a great team like this, or whatever team he goes to?"
An official announcement of Russell will finally end all speculation around what has been the main saga of F1's season, but there are still more slots to fill on the grid for 2022.
With Antonio Giovinazzi's future unclear, another new driver may join Bottas at Alfa Romeo leaving the Italian team with a new-look lineup.
Meanwhile, at Williams, Nicholas Latifi is expected to stay but the question of who will replace Russell remains, with Formula E champion Nyck de Vries rumoured alongside Alexander Albon, for whom Red Bull are desperate to find an F1 seat in 2022.
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