F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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Toto Wolff has revealed that Mercedes are guaranteed to make their announcement on their 2022 drivers in the next couple of weeks. Wolff said that he planned to speak to Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, the two names in contention, this weekend before the Belgian Grand Prix.
However, while Wolff will inform the drivers of who will partner Lewis Hamilton next season in person at the event at Spa-Francorchamps, he plans to withhold making the decision public until the future of both drivers is absolutely certain.
The Austrian said: “It is important for me personally to understand that whatever decision we take, we know what the consequences are and what the career opportunities are for each of them.
“Before I communicate a decision, it all needs to fall into place.”
Team principal Wolff was also at pains to emphasise just what a difficult decision it is for Mercedes to make between the two different drivers.
He said: “It is not an easy decision because we know about the qualities of Valtteri’s personality, his character, the integration in the team, the driver development of the car and his speed.
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“He deserves to race at Mercedes.
“On the other side, George has done his three years at Williams and shown great, great promise for the future and he deserves to have the chance to actually be in a competitive car at the very front of the grid.
“There are pros and cons with each of them but I guess it’s now decision time. I said to them I don’t want to drag it out much longer. I just want to finish the holidays, go to Spa and have the conversations face-to-face.”
Russell also drove as part of Mercedes’ junior team when he was younger, and filled in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 when the seven-time world champion was ruled out by a positive Covid test.
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Mercedes are not the only team with a decision to make regarding their drivers for the 2022 season.
Red Bull, with whom the Brackley-based outfit are engaged in an engrossing title race, are yet to announce Max Verstappen’s partner for next year.
The Dutchman’s current team-mate Sergio Perez is currently the favourite to retain the seat.
Both Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner and the team’s senior advisor Helmut Marko both praised the Mexican recently.
However, reports have emerged that Perez is unhappy in his current role as the team’s number two, and may look to move if that remains the case.
Such a move would force Horner to consider other options, such as former drivers Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.
First practice for the Belgian Grand Prix gets underway on Friday, with Hamilton currently leading Verstappen by eight points in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
After the race at Spa-Francorchamps, F1 returns to the Netherlands for the Dutch Grand Prix for the first time since 1985.
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