George Russell has stepped up the pressure on Mercedes to hand him a drive for 2021, claiming his performance on Sunday has given team principal Toto Wolff "a headache" over his future plans.
Russell, who currently races for Williams, replaced Lewis Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix after the seven-time champion contracted Covid-19.
The 22-year-old produced a stellar display across the weekend, coming within 0.026 seconds of claiming pole, and but for a Mercedes pit-stop error and a slow puncture late in the race would have taken the chequered flag.
"I guess from Toto’s perspective, hopefully, I have given him a headache, not just for 2022, maybe for sooner," said Russell. “[Mercedes] have followed my whole career very closely but hopefully this is just another step on the ladder.”
There is a slim possibility that Hamilton, who is yet to commit to racing beyond this year, could step away from the sport, affording the team the ideal opportunity to hand Russell a permanent drive.
But if that does not happen, Russell believes he may have now made a case for him to step up next year anyway, given that it will be a crucial development season with all teams preparing new cars for a large-scale regulation change in 2022.
“I guess the best way to do your talking is on track," said Russell. "Mercedes have supported me since the end of 2016. This is a performance industry and I hope this weekend has cemented their views regarding me."
Russell, who could be back in the Mercedes this weekend if Hamilton cannot return a negative test for Covid-19, led his first race for the team until a botched pit stop saw his car fitted with the wrong tyres resulting in a need to stop a second time.
Although he fought back to within three seconds of the lead, a puncture dropped him down to 15th from where he fought back again to claim his first F1 points in 37 attempts with a ninth-place finish, and a point for fastest lap.
Asked if his performance had given him validation, Russell said: “I’ve been working incredibly hard with Williams to extract everything possible and there have been so many times that we felt like we’ve done an incredibly good job.
"But I guess there is always an element of uncertainty in the back of your mind, knowing maybe if somebody else was in this car you might have been able to eke a bit more out.
“From a personal perspective, it was a great weekend of validation to say we probably have been doing a very good job in the Williams this year."
What do you think?
I agree with Russal that be brill having two brits driving the best car on the grid. So you got to sign him for 2021. So then it be Hamilton v Russal that I got to see as Russal for the first time did a good job alot better than Bottas dispite being let down when he was called in for last pitstop to which I still dont understand why there did that as he had hard tyres on and there would of lasted till end of race and Russal would of won the race. SO YOU GOT TO SIGN HIM FOR 2021
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