F1: Hamilton and Bottas take the W12 Mercedes around Bahrain
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Toto Wolff has been warned about the dangers of pairing Lewis Hamilton with George Russell at Mercedes in 2022. Formula 1 returns from its four-week summer break this weekend, with the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday – the first of three successive weeks of action.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen appeared to be in control of the title race, but a retirement at Silverstone and a ninth-place finish at the Hungaroring saw the Dutchman surrender the lead to Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton has an eight-point lead going into Spa on Sunday, but rumours have been swirling regarding the Brit’s partner at Mercedes for 2022.
Toto Wolff is believed to be making the decision between Valtteri Bottas and Williams’ George Russell – and former F1 driver Karun Chandhok highlighted the similarities between Mercedes’ potential future and McLaren’s past.
“Russell and Lewis has all the makings of Fernando [Alonso] and Lewis at McLaren in 2007,” Chandhok suggested.
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“You can see the young pretender coming in against an established world champion and there will be some fireworks there which, frankly for all of us on the sidelines, could be quite good to watch.”
While the Sky Sports F1 team seemingly agreed with Chandhok, David Croft was quick to point out the differences in the respective situations.
He went on to suggest Mercedes and team principal Wolff need to have a contingency plan in case they make the wrong decision.
“Lewis won’t be like Fernando in 2007 – not expecting the young whippersnapper to start going out and trying to beat him,” Croft said.
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“That was the problem there. Fernando had been told Lewis was a number two, Lewis hadn’t received that email and proceeded to try and be number one and that’s why it all kicked off.
“The biggest factor that Toto has to take into consideration: what if he gets it wrong? Is there a plan B if he gets this wrong?
“I’m not saying if George gets the drive it will go wrong because he’s won titles and shown what a great driver he can be – but if it does go wrong, what’s the plan B?
“You can’t go back to Valtteri Bottas and say ‘come on, sorry all is forgiven’.”
When quizzed about the possibility of retaining Bottas in favour of a stable dynamic within the driver line-up while transitioning to the new regulations, Croft admitted it has its positives – but there is a danger in opting to keep the Finn.
“You run the risk of George Russell going ‘forget it, if you haven’t got any faith in me by now, you’re never going to have any faith in me. By the way Red Bull, I know Sergio’s only got a one-year deal for 2022, I’ll come to you for 2023’ – and then you’ve lost a massive asset.”
Formula 1 returns this weekend for the Belgian Grand Prix on August 29.
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