Stop billing it Russell v Bottas, says Mercedes boss Wolff

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Stop billing it Russell v Bottas, says Mercedes boss Wolff

Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in George Russell is not in a straight shootout for a 2022 seat with Valtteri Bottas at the Sakhir Grand Prix, according to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

With Hamilton missing the penultimate race of the season having contracted COVID-19, Mercedes junior Russell has stepped up from the backmarking Williams team to take the place of the newly-crowned 2020 champion. It is currently unclear whether Hamilton will be able to return for the Abu Dhabi Gand Prix on Dec. 13.

Russell will stay at Williams next season, while Bottas signed a one-year contract extension earlier this season. Hamilton is yet to sign a deal beyond this year but is widely expected to do so.

Russell started well, topping the opening practice session of the week on Friday.

In a virtual press conference held after that session, Wolff was asked if it was fair to see this weekend as a shootout between the pair, to which he replied: “Not at all, I’ve heard this rumour.

“You can’t call it a shootout when it’s about one or two races. That doesn’t give you any meaningful data whatsoever.

“If George does well it’s an indication that he will one day be in a good car and hopefully race for victories and world championships. That’s far away, he knows that, he just needs to deliver a solid job, not make any mistakes and just continue what he has done.

“There’s no shootout, we have total trust in Valtteri and loyalty, we’ve always had. That is our position.”

Bottas was asked the same question during Thursday’s media day, during which he admitted it would be difficult to explain being beaten by Russell in a clean fight.

“If I have to give some kind of answer, I would say if he beats me, for sure, it wouldn’t look so good for me if I had a normal race and he beats me fair and square.”

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