George Russell hopes his starring performance on his Mercedes Formula 1 race debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix has given team boss Toto Wolff a headache for 2022 “or sooner”. 

A fairytale victory in Russell’s first race for Mercedes - standing in for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion contracted COVID-19 - appeared in sight until the Briton suffered agonising late heartbreak in Bahrain. 

Russell fell to fifth following a calamitous pit-lane mix-up from Mercedes but still could have won the race as he charged back through the order and hunted down eventual winner Sergio Perez, only for a puncture to force him back into the pits for a second unscheduled stop of the race. 

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The Williams regular eventually recovered to ninth, one place behind Valtteri Bottas who he passed not once but twice, to register a long-awaited first points finish in F1 as he underlined his credentials in front-running machinery. 

“From my side, I’ve been working incredibly hard with Williams to extract everything possible and there’s been so many times that we felt like we’ve done an incredibly good job,” Russell said. 

“I guess there’s always an element of uncertainty in the back of your mind. From a personal perspective this has been a great weekend of validation, saying ‘actually we probably have been doing a very good job in the Williams this year’.

“And secondly, I guess yeah from Toto’s perspective, hopefully I have given him a headache. Not just for 2022, maybe sooner.”

Wolff was left impressed and said the 22-year-old confirmed the potential Mercedes sees in him having “over-delivered” all weekend, with Russell looking to place himself in contention for a 2022 drive with the German manufacturer. 

“The way to do your talking is on track,” Russell added. “This is a performance industry and I hope this weekend has cemented their views regarding me.

“Mercedes have supported me since the end of 2016, they have followed my whole career very closely. Hopefully this is just another step on the ladder.”

But Wolff played down the prospect of Mercedes swapping Russell in at Bottas’ expense for 2021 given that both drivers already hold contracts with their respective teams, stressing such a move is not realistic.

“He’s a Williams driver, and is signed up to Williams,” Wolff said of Russell. “And our driver line-up is Valtteri and Lewis.

“So I don’t see this as a realistic situation at that moment of time. But I can understand that it would be an interesting situation, both in the team and maybe a bit of a wild ride for all of us. Maybe we’ll have that in the future.”

Wolff also swerved a direct response when asked if he would now consider signing Russell to partner Hamilton for 2022.

“George has always been a Mercedes driver,” he replied. 

“He’s a Williams driver now and they can be proud of what he’s done today. And they will know that his lap times in a Williams are probably the benchmark.

“And now we need to see what the future holds. I haven’t made up my mind now what that means for us.”