George Russell says he has been given “no promises” by Mercedes over a potential drive with the team for the 2022 Formula 1 season.

The Mercedes-backed 22-year-old Briton is heading into the final year of his contract with Williams, while current Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ respective deals also expire at the end of 2021.

Russell, who impressed as a stand-in for Mercedes at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when seven-time world champion Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19, has long been tipped for a future Mercedes drive and that door could well open up in 2022, should either Hamilton decide to retire or Mercedes chose not to retain Bottas for sixth campaign.

But speaking on Friday following the launch of Williams’ FW43B F1 car, Russell stressed that he is “not thinking” about the prospect of driving for Mercedes next year.

“Toto has always given me his word and he has always given me the opportunity when they believe I deserve it,” he said.

“They have told me that I am a part of their future, whenever that may be, again, is when they believe the time is right.

“I think a lot of people think next year is the natural path but equally things change very very quickly in motorsport, especially in Formula 1, so I’m not even thinking about to be honest.

"I obviously had a taste of life at the front of the grid last year but as I said I’m just focused on the here and now, focusing on Bahrain. As I said if I perform on track and I deliver, continue on the same path and progress that I’ve been on so far I guess in the future the opportunity will come but I’m not even thinking about it and no promises have been made, at all.”

When asked what his options would be if he did not get a seat at Mercedes in 2022, Russell indicated that he would be happy to stay with Williams, reiterating his belief that the Grove-based squad has a bright future under new owners Dorilton Capital.

“First and foremost I am a Williams driver this year,” Russell explained.

“There’s a lot of speculation and thoughts ahead of the 2022 season where I will be. If that were not going to happen that most of you guys are speculating - it’s an interesting position for me.

“But as it currently stands with the whole investment from Dorilton, the changes I’ve already seen taking place at Williams. Williams have finished last in the constructors’ for the past three seasons, I don’t think that will be the case in 2022. I see a very bright future here.

“There’s a massive opportunity for every team in F1 for 2022 and as the guys have said with the investment we’ve got, with the guys who are already here with the likes of Jost and the guys that are coming in, the relationship that has been built with Mercedes.

“It’s looking very exciting for the team. I guess I’ve got a very interesting decision on my hands towards the middle of this year but I am not even thinking about that now, we’re still over a year away yet.”

For the time being, Russell insists he will be fully focused on delivering his best performances on track for Williams in 2021, rather than becoming distracted by speculation.

“My target is just to perform to the absolute best of my ability, week in, week out,” he said.

“That’s what I’ve been doing, or trying to do ever since I was 8 years old starting in go-karting. What comes from that is out of my hands, all I can control is how I perform on track.

“I’ve had some fantastic opportunities in the past, obviously the Bahrain race last year, getting my opportunity into Formula 1 with Williams in the first place, the support of Mercedes, and that has come from just controlling what I can control and that’s how I get on, how I perform on track, so that is not going to change.”

 

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