Toto Wolff has revealed how he did not want to announce George Russell as a 2022 Mercedes Formula 1 driver until Valtteri Bottas' future was secured. After five seasons, Finn Bottas departed Mercedes at the end of 2021 to replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo - freeing up a seat alongside Lewis Hamilton for then-Williams driver Russell. Speculation mounted throughout summer 2021 that Russell would be announced - although nothing was by the summer break. The day after the Dutch Grand Prix, Bottas was confirmed at Alfa, paving the way for Russell to be promoted - something he referenced at Spa when talking about "the process" needing to be respected. And Wolff has now spoken that this process was key in his timing.
Wolff wants to respect Bottas
"For myself, I knew pretty early that I wanted to have George in the car," Wolff explained in an interview with Channel 4. "But I didn't commit to George before I knew that Valtteri had found a good place. "I didn't communicate to anybody outside because that is the respect I have for people that that I care about. "And when Valtteri's deal was done over August, over the break period, then I went back to George and told him: 'You're in, we want you to be in the car,' knowing that Valtteri had his place. "And I said to George, because obviously it was a long period for him to wait. I said: 'I will do the same for you', and that I think he understood."
Good for Bottas to leave
During his stint at Mercedes, Bottas was often able to out-qualify Hamilton but was unable to regularly defeat him in races - only ever passing the seven-time World Champion for a race win once - in the 2019 United States GP. He was also regarded as Hamilton's 'wingman' a term coined by Wolff - much to Bottas's chagrin, but the boss believes it is better he is out the "pressure-cooker" environment. "I think that it was also a good moment for Valtteri to leave the team because the pressure was enormous on him," Wolff explained. "He didn't want to be a wingman, and I think having released him from that pressure, now he's racing completely different at Alfa Romeo. "He seems also happier for me, rather than this pressure cooker at Mercedes."