Ross Brawn said George Russell has fully earned a move to Mercedes with his performances this season, and Spa was further proof of his talent.
A wet qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix saw Russell out-perform the usual capabilities of his car, mastering the conditions to put his car on the front row of the grid, only behind Max Verstappen after an outstanding lap on Saturday.
Russell’s future has been hotly debated all season long, and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has confirmed he has now made a decision between the Brit and Valtteri Bottas, for who will partner Lewis Hamilton at the team next season.
A rain-affected ‘race’ at the weekend saw only the minimum amount of laps behind the Safety Car required to gain a classification in the Belgian Grand Prix.
As a result, Russell was unable to test himself against the rest of the field in racing conditions – but earned his first official Formula 1 podium finish nonetheless.
The Williams driver admitted himself that Sunday’s circumstances were not the way he wanted to achieve his first podium, but F1 managing director of motorsport Brawn drew parallels with his performance to that of another illustrious name in the sport.
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“We all know George Russell has a fantastic talent,” Brawn wrote in his post-race column on the official Formula 1 website.
“We have seen it a lot at Williams, and we saw it amplified at Mercedes, when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.
“George’s performance reminded me a lot of Fernando Alonso when he drove at a wet Spa for Minardi in 2001.
“He was mighty impressive in a car that clearly was not up to the job. In those conditions, the ratio of driver to car changes – and we saw that with George on Saturday.
“He doesn’t have a front row car but in those tricky conditions in qualifying, he trounced people with far better cars than he had.
“In my view, there is only one decision for Mercedes next year with regards the second seat.”
With Mercedes’ decision edging ever closer, a report in France claims that Bottas will be making a move to Alfa Romeo next season, to replace Kimi Raikkonen – who is set to retire from F1.
As for what could be his vacated Williams seat, Alex Albon could be in with a chance of securing a drive in Russell’s absence.
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