F1 preview: A lap of the Belgian Grand Prix
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Red Bull ace Max Verstappen has tipped Williams starlet George Russell to go on to achieve big things in F1, and believes the 23-year-old “deserves” a drive with Mercedes in 2022. The Dutchman, who is locked in a heated title battle with Lewis Hamilton, believes the King’s Lynn racer would be an ideal partner for the seven-time world champion next season.
The open spot at Mercedes is the biggest talking point of silly season, with the question of whether or not Valtteri Bottas will keep his seat for 2022 still unanswered.
Russell, a Mercedes junior driver who has impressed in an uncompetitive car over the last season and a half, is tipped to be the man to replace him when the time comes.
Verstappen and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc are the latest pair to weigh in on the debate, and both believe the Williams man is the best choice for Mercedes in 2022.
While a promotion to the Silver Arrows would put Verstappen in competition with Russell, the Red Bull man admitted he “can’t stay at Williams forever” when asked his thoughts in a press conference ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
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He said: “George is very quick and he can’t stay where he is forever. I think he deserves more.
“At the end of the day, it is up to Mercedes to make the call, so not really from my side but for sure, I rate him very highly as a driver.
“And he is of course very young as well, so it is natural the younger guys, at some point, move up and especially the good drivers.”
Monegasque star Leclerc also heaped praise on the Briton, and believes Mercedes would benefit from being able to call upon “such a talented driver”.
He said: “I think it is great if George gets that seat because he deserves it.
“It is always very difficult to judge in Formula 1 because the cars are so different and obviously, with George being at Williams it is always difficult to judge how much of a good job he is doing.
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“But he is consistently there and showing good things and also in the past I have raced with him and I know how strong he is.
“So he definitely deserves that spot and I think it will be great to have such a talented driver in that seat.”
While two more big voices in the sport have backed Russell, Hamilton himself has said he would like to continue the fruitful partnership he has struck up with Bottas since the Finn joined him at Mercedes in 2017.
The championship leader has praised both publicly, but has said on numerous occasions he enjoys racing alongside Bottas.
“Valtteri has been my best team-mate overall and when I say team-mate it’s not just driver performance, it’s about team morale and how you work in the team-mate environment,” he said on the subject in June.
And Bottas told Finnish media Hamilton has repeated the sentiment to him directly, but admitted the “bigger machine” of team boss Toto Wolff and the Daimler board is the group which makes the decision.
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