Mercedes warned axing Valtteri Bottas for George Russell could cost Lewis Hamilton title

F1 preview: A lap of the Belgian Grand Prix

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Choosing to replace Valtteri Bottas with George Russell might be a call which costs Mercedes the constructors’ title in 2022, according to a former racer and Sky Sports pundit Paul Di Resta. The Scot claimed the stability the Silver Arrows would have by keeping Bottas could help them fend off other challenges next season.

The race for the team title is tight in 2021, with just 12 points separating Mercedes and Red Bull at the top of the standings after the first 11 races.

Things could get even more competitive in 2022, with a swathe of technical rule changes expected to create a more level playing field and bring other teams and drivers into contention.

Mercedes have a huge decision to make with that in mind, Team boss Toto Wolff is agonising over whether to stick with the tried and tested team of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, or invest in youth and try something new with Russell now they have sterner competition than in recent years.

Di Resta, who had a three-year spell in F1 with Force India before a stint as a reserve driver for Williams, said the Silver Arrows should follow Red Bull’s lead in retaining their current second driver for the sake of continuity.

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He said on Sky Sports F1: “Lewis is going to probably be the most successful ever in Formula 1 for a quite some time and Valtteri is a guy who 25 per cent of the time can outqualify him.

“When it comes to wheel-to-wheel racing on a Sunday it’s very different, but when you look at how people succeed in sport you generally need to have somebody at the top and somebody supporting them. Valtteri is playing that ideal support role for Lewis.

“Red Bull openly said when they re-signed Sergio Perez that they’ve done it to give them stability to fight for this championship. If Valtteri gets told he’s not in that car next season, how does he go and help fight for that championship for Lewis?

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“What would be the problem with leaving George at Williams for another year?”

Meanwhile, fellow pundit Karun Chandhok compared a potential Hamilton-Russell pairing to the ill-fated partnership the seven-time world champion had with Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

“Russell and Lewis has got all the makings of Fernando and Lewis at McLaren in 2007,” he said.

“You can see the young pretender coming in against the established world champion and some fireworks there, which frankly for all us on the sidelines could be quite good to watch!”

Chandhok also said Russell was the obvious choice when looking to the future, and questioned Bottas’ race pace despite admitting the Finn is “very good in qualifying”.

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