Mercedes to announce George Russell ‘this week’ despite denying Nico Rosberg claim
F1 

F1: George Russell hikes during the off-season

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Mercedes will finally end weeks of frenzied speculation this week by confirming George Russell will partner Lewis Hamilton for the 2022 season. It’s understood that Valtteri Bottas’ exit could be confirmed as early as Monday, with the signing of Russell to be disclosed imminently afterwards. Bottas, 32, is almost certain to join Alfa Romeo, to replace Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen after he announced last week he would be retiring from F1 at the end of the current season.

Mercedes though, have denied claims from former driver Nico Rosberg that Russell’s contract signing has already taken place in front of the cameras.

2016 world champion Rosberg, 36, claimed on Sky Sports that Netflix’s Drive to Survive crew were invited to film Russell signing his new contract with Toto Wolff inside the team’s motorhome in Zandovoort on Sunday night, shortly after the Dutch Grand Prix.

“By the way, on George Russell, I’ve got a rumour,” said Rosberg.

“A certain streaming service (Netflix) was called into the office of Toto to film the signature. That’s the rumour that’s circulating in the paddock for George Russell.”

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Mercedes have denied their former driver’s claim.

Netflix broadcast ‘Drive to Survive’, the behind-the-scenes Formula 1 documentary, and have confirmed that a fourth series featuring the 2021 season was in the making.

Ironically, Russell has previously spoken of his surprise that he and his Williams team barely featured in the last series , but now according to Rosberg he could be at the forefront of a few episodes this time around. 

Regardless, it now appears inevitable that any lingering doubt around his future will be cleared up before this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

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Russell’s move to the reigning Constructors’ champions will see him form a mouth-watering all-British line-up with Hamilton, 36.

The 23-year-old has spent the last three seasons with Williams, and produced an impressive stand-in display for Hamilton in Bahrain last December when the latter was ruled out with Covid-19. Russell finished ninth, but only after tyre problems cost him a podium finish.

Last month, he produced a memorable qualifying lap to put his uncompetitive Williams on the front row of the grid for last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, and duly took second place after torrential rain meant only two safety car led laps of racing were possible the following day.

However, he could only manage 15th in Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix, won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in front of 65,000 enthusiastic home fans.

He led from pole position and comfortably fended off second placed Hamilton, who as a result now trails Verstappen by three points in the overall standings.

Mercedes’ Bottas was third, ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

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