Russell and Latifi staying at Williams while Bottas to remain at Mercedes

Budapest (AFP)

George Russell said on Thursday that Williams have refused to allow him to leave next season, ending speculation that he might replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.

Williams, who were put up for sale before the coronavirus-delayed season started two weeks ago in Austria, also confirmed that Canadian rookie Nicholas Latifi would continue next season.

British driver George Russell told a teleconference from the Hungaroring that he would be staying at Williams
British driver George Russell told a teleconference from the Hungaroring that he would be staying at Williams JOE KLAMAR AFP

Russell has been linked with a switch to Mercedes, where he came through the junior programme and remains part of their young driver stable, for several months. The confirmation by Williams suggests that the champions have decided to re-sign Bottas to run alongside six-time champion Lewis Hamilton.

“I’ll be staying with Williams for 2021 – you heard it here first,” Russell told an official video news conference at the Hungaroring circuit, ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

“I have no hard feelings or anything towards Mercedes, there’s nothing more they can do,” the 22-year-old Briton added to Sky Sports F1. “Ultimately, I had a contract with Williams.”

Russell is in the middle year of a three-year contract with Williams. He did not pick up a point last season and has yet to collect one this season.

“Claire (Williams, deputy team chief) was very firm that she’s not ready to let me go and I have to respect her decision.

“I’m still young, I’m still a Mercedes driver and I’ll be going out there to build off last year, to build off the first few races and continue to try and show what I can do.”

Latifi’s confirmation follows his elevation from reserve driver last season and two outings in Austria so far this year. Like Russell he also does not have a point this season.

Bottas is the early season championship leader after winning the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix and then finishing second behind Hamilton in last Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix, both races having taken place at the Red Bull Ring circuit.

Bottas leads Hamilton by six points.

Russell said he believes the Hungaroring will suit Williams better than the Austrian track.

“I think the circuit characteristics will suit our car better than Austria did,” he said. “We have a bit of work to do off the back of the race in Austria, as our race pace wasn’t as strong as our qualifying pace, so we need to understand why.

“Nevertheless, Hungary is a great track, it’s one of my favourites and it will be fun to drive around that circuit again.”

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