Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists the team’s relationship with Williams will not be damaged if George Russell loses his seat for the 2021 Formula 1 season.

Russell’s future at Williams is the subject of much speculation despite confirmation back in July that both Russell and teammate Nicholas Latifi would be retained for next season.

Since the takeover of Dorilton Capital in September, Sergio Perez has emerged as a possible candidate for Williams, potentially replacing Mercedes junior Russell in the team’s 2021 line-up.

Earlier in the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend, Wolff had admitted that the decision is ultimately out of Mercedes’ hands.

Asked if there will be any consequences for Williams if Russell is not in the car next year, Wolff replied: “No. We have a five-year contract with them on power units, and these things are separate.

“There’s contracts that are valid, we will respect them. That’s how we do it here at Mercedes. I’m happy with the three customers that we have for next year onwards.

“I totally respect the independence of Williams like any other team and they need to make their decisions,” he added.

“Sometimes financial decisions take priority over sporting decisions and sometimes even the sporting decisions need to balanced, and it’s not always clear-cut. It wouldn’t damage the relationship, it would be disappointing.”

Wolff insisted Russell’s situation is “not looking bad” but stressed that in the event he did lose his seat, Mercedes has a back-up plan in mind.

“There is a lot of theories whether he stays or not and there are drivers, clearly good guys, also with a bit of budget there,” he added.

“I think the reason why the investors have come in is that they want to be competitive. They have made a sensible plan on how to increase performance every year and they are not expecting any wonders short-term but they have a clear path to success over the next few years and I think that George can play a role in there.

“He’s clearly performing very well, the team likes him. If I were them I would keep him. Whether he stays or not, if he stays then we have to take a decision next year what to do and if he doesn’t stay then it becomes more of an imminent topic. Let’s see what happens.”

Wolff hinted that Mercedes would use next season to prepare him for a drive with the works’ team for the following year.

“If George were to slip through the system I would be happy to take him in our squad, we will have a sensational reserve,” he said.

“I would put him through a mega testing programme and prepare him in the best way for a 2022 blast.”

 

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