Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that Valtteri Bottas and George Russell will be free to race for victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix, insisting he has no concerns about a potential rivalry brewing.

Russell starred in his first appearance for Mercedes acting as stand-in for Lewis Hamilton following the seven-time world champion’s positive COVID-19 test by qualifying second for Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old Williams regular was left “gutted” to have missed out on pole by just 0.026s to Valtteri Bottas on his Mercedes qualifying debut in Bahrain. Russell now has a brilliant opportunity to score his first points in F1, but could do even better should he claim either a podium or a victory.

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Wolff stressed he is not concerned about a rivalry emerging between his drivers having denied the pair are in a ‘shoot-out’ over a Mercedes seat for 2022.

"It will be certainly tight, but I don't see any rivalry within our team," Wolff said. “Valtteri is well-settled. There is nothing to prove for him.

“For George it’s a little bit easier because there is no pressure at all, he has nothing to lose.”

"And obviously Verstappen is not going to be happy that there is a new kid on the block that's standing in front of him.

"George is on the worse line, as we've seen last weekend, and the cockpit is too small for him. The clutch pedals are too small too for his hands and his fingers.

"So really, I have the same expectation tomorrow that I had for him for qualifying.”

Asked whether Mercedes would employ team orders, Wolff replied: "No, [they're] free to race.

"That's what we owe to everybody. Off the leash.”

Wolff added that Mercedes were “impressed but not surprised” by Russell’s performance in qualifying.

“[We were] impressed but not surprised,” Wolff said. “His speed, what I saw last with him when we were able to benchmark him in F3 and F2, I have seen that in a Formula 1 car. And his calmness about approaching it, he wasn’t rattled at all. And just a really considered approach, I would say.

“What is most impressive is the sheer driving. All the other things around were as expected. The driving was impressive

“I remember when he walked into my office when he was 15 or 16 years old with a presentation in his hands and the black suit with a black tie and made the case why he should be with Mercedes in the future,” Wolff added.

“Since then, he has performed up to the expectations. He’s won the F3 in his rookie year. He won F2 in his rookie year. He’s doing his job at Williams, trying to help the team to progress. So he’s definitely someone for the future.

“Now, having been thrown in the cold water, he is definitely swimming and not only swimming he’s not comfortable in the car it’s too small, it’s not his steering wheel. So I would say it’s more than solid, what he has delivered.”