Russell: No promises made by Mercedes over 2022 F1 seat

Russell is entering the final year of his Williams F1 contract in 2021, leading to suggestions that he could step up to join parent team Mercedes for next season.

Mercedes has supported Russell’s racing career since the end of 2016, and opted to draft him in to race for its team when Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell dominated the race and was on course for victory before a tyre mix-up and a puncture left him to finish the race ninth, but the performance only furthered the calls for him to be handed a promotion in the future.

Mercedes has two vacant seats for 2022 after Hamilton only signed a one-year contract extension, giving the team freedom in the driver market.

Russell stressed that any decision over a Mercedes seat was “out of my hands”, and that no promises had been made over a possible promotion.

“Toto [Wolff] has always given me his word, and he has always given me the opportunity when they believe I deserve it,” Russell said.

“They have told me that I am a part of their future. Whenever that may be is again when they believe that the time is right. I think a lot of people think next year is the natural path.


Photo by: Williams

“But equally, things change very, very quickly in motorsport, especially in Formula 1. So I’m not even thinking about it to be honest.

“I obviously had a taste of life at the front of the grid last year, but as I said, I’m just focused on the here and now, focusing on Bahrain. If I perform on-track and I deliver, continuing on the same path and progress that I’ve been on so far, I guess in the future the opportunity will come.

“But I’m not even thinking about it and no promises have been made at all.”

Russell has starred throughout his time at Williams despite never scoring an F1 point with the team, and has never been outqualified by a team-mate while driving for the British squad.

Williams is entering the 2021 season boosted by its takeover by US investment group Dorilton Capital last summer, marking a new era for the team after struggling at the foot of the championship in recent years.

Asked what his plans would be if Mercedes did not sign him to its team for 2022, Russell talked up Williams’ future prospects.

“There’s a lot of speculation and thoughts ahead of the 2022 season where I’ll be,” Russell said.

“If that were not to happen, what most of you guys are speculating, it’s an interesting position for me. But as it currently stands with the whole investment from Dorilton, the changes I’ve already seen taking place at Williams… Williams have finished last in the constructors’ for the past three seasons. I don’t think that will be the case in 2022.

“I see a very bright future here. There’s a massive opportunity for every team in F1 for 2022, and as the guys have said, with the investment we’ve got, with the guys who are already here, with the guys like Jost [Capito] who are coming in, the relationship that has been built with Mercedes, it’s looking very exciting for the team.

“I guess I’ve got a very interesting decision on my hands towards the middle of this year, but I’m not even thinking about that now.”



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Abiteboul's Alpine F1 departure was a “shock” – Budkowski

Ahead of the 2021 F1 season the former Renault team was rebranded to Alpine, the French manufacturer’s sportscar brand.

As part of the rebrand, the management structure of the Enstone also received an overhaul under new Renault CEO Luca de Meo.

PLUS: How Alpine’s cure to 2021 rules starts at the front

Long-time Renault employee Abiteboul was let go from the company, with Alpine to be headed by the new brand CEO Laurent Rossi.

Rossi decided not to appoint a traditional team principal to replace Abiteboul, those duties now split between executive director Budkowski and new racing director Davide Brivio, who joined the team from Suzuki’s MotoGP squad.

Speaking to French media at Alpine’s launch of its 2021 challenger, Budkowski admitted Abiteboul’s departure caused a “shock” within the Enstone team.

“It obviously was a surprise and a shock to everyone when we found out,” Budkowski revealed.

“But we were ready for the season anyway, the project was very committed.

“Cyril, in his role, had been struggling to come to Enstone regularly anyway, thanks to COVID. His presence or absence didn’t change the commitment of the project.

Abiteboul and Budkowski Renault F1 team 2018

Abiteboul and Budkowski Renault F1 team 2018

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“Then we’ve had a new management team in place, Laurent [Rossi]’s arrival was announced.

Budkowski said Alpine’s reorganisation was carried out quickly and that the team’s goals remain unchanged, hoping to improve on its fifth place in the constructors’ championship in 2020.

“Laurent recently came to Enstone for a few days, during which he met a lot of people, saw the car, saw the development project, and was briefed on what we’re doing for 2022 too.

“We reorganised ourselves very quickly, we have a new team and we have clear, unchanged goals.”

On Wednesday Alpine revealed a striking new livery on its Alpine A521 F1 car, which is draped in the French national colours of blue, white and red.

Esteban Ocon remains on board for the new campaign after impressing in the latter half of 2020, with Fernando Alonso coming out of F1 retirement to replace Daniel Ricciardo, who moved across to McLaren for 2021.



Williams FW43B revealed with heavily-revised livery for 2021 season

Williams had planned to present its new car via an augmented reality app, only for hackers to force the team to abandon the idea and remove the app from digital platforms.

The team issued the first renders of the FW43B on Friday afternoon, revealing a striking new livery design for the new car that will be raced by George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.

While the front of the car has retained its largely white-base design, the rear looks completely different, sporting a blue striped pattern that also incorporates the Williams ‘W’ logo.

The livery is also accompanied by some yellow elements around the sidepods, bulkhead and front wing endplates.

Williams FW43B

Williams FW43B

Photo by: Williams

2021 marks Williams’ first full season since its takeover by American investment group Dorilton Capital in August, which led to an overhaul of its senior management team.

PLUS: The evidence that shows Williams’ F1 recovery is real

The exit of the Williams family led to Simon Roberts taking over as team principal, while former Volkswagen motorsport chief Jost Capito has joined as CEO.

“Williams Racing is a sporting icon, and a team that has forged a reputation of success through sheer determination and grit intertwined with innovation, passionate and skilful race-craft and an absolute desire to win,” Capito said.

“Highs and lows are typical in any long-established sporting brand’s journey and historic success can be a strong motivator, but it cannot be relied upon to define future success in the modern era of Formula 1.

“Therefore, we have created a fresh new livery for the 2021 car; one that acknowledges our incredible past and retains the spirit, drive and motivation that remains at the core of Williams’ DNA yet looks to the future and signposts our long-term ambition to return to the front of the grid.

Williams FW43B

Williams FW43B

Photo by: Williams

“Whilst we are just starting out on this journey and there is still a lot of work to do, we are happy to see momentum in the right direction and look forward to continuing that progress on track this season.”

Besides Capito, Williams has also been boosted by the return of 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who serves as an official advisor to the team he debuted with in 2000.

The team has finished last in the constructors’ championship each of the last three years, but enjoyed an upswing in form through 2020 as it regularly competed with Haas and Alfa Romeo.



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Netflix releases full trailer for Drive to Survive Season 3

Following the success of the first two seasons of the series, production company Box to Box Films spent the 2020 campaign embedded in the paddock one again filming a third series.

This continued despite the restrictions enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in members of the production crew becoming part of teams’ bubbles at races in order to gather content.

F1 announced last month that the third season of Drive to Survive would be released on 19 March, nine days before the start of the 2021 championship.

A teaser trailer was issued at the time, but the full official trailer has now been released ahead of the new season.

The official trailer shows behind the scenes action at a number of races, with all 10 teams set to be part of the series once again.

“In the most dramatic season to date, fans will once again be taken behind the scenes, to witness first-hand how the drivers and teams battle it out for victory in a year like no other as the ten-part series will be released on March 19 2021,” the statement from F1 reads.

“Fans will be given unprecedented behind the scenes access to the 2020 season which saw the sport dramatically halted in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic and make a thrilling restart in Austria later that year.

“Intense battles, fierce rivalries, unexpected podiums and Lewis Hamilton’s incredible seventh world title will ensure the series is one of the most action packed yet.”

Romain Grosjean’s fireball accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix is set to figure prominently in the series, with the trailer showing the Frenchman taking part in an interview alongside his wife, Marion.

The trailer also shows McLaren team-mates Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris getting up to hijinks, Ferrari warning its drivers they cannot “be too funny” given the performance, and Lewis Hamilton’s angry reaction to his Russian Grand Prix penalty.

Haas team principal Gunther Steiner, who has become a cult figure through the first two series, rounds out the trailer, jokingly telling his PR boss to “f**k off” when offered an umbrella as it would “hurt my ego”.

All 10 episodes of the third series of Drive to Survive will be released on 19 March on Netflix.



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Schumacher: No added pressure from father's legacy for F1 debut

After clinching the FIA Formula 2 title in 2020, Ferrari-backed Schumacher is graduating to F1 with Haas in 2021, 30 years after his father’s debut in 1991 with Jordan.

Michael Schumacher went on to become the most successful driver in history with seven world titles, only recently matched by Lewis Hamilton, but Schumacher Jr. doesn’t believe his illustrious surname will burden him with the weight of expectation.

“I’ve never said that it was pressure and I think I’m pretty sure I won’t ever say it because I’m very happy to carry that surname and I’m very happy to carry that name back into Formula 1,” Schumacher said at the launch of Haas’ 2021 challenger.

“I’m very proud of it. It’s like a boost to me and it gives me motivation every single day to work as hard as I can.”

Schumacher was only five years old when his father took his seventh and final world title with Ferrari and was 13 when Michael retired from F1 at the end of the 2012 season.

The 21-year-old still thinks he indirectly managed to learn some important lessons from his father about racing in F1, including the need to build a team around him.

Mick Schumacher Abu Dhabi F1 test 2020

Mick Schumacher Abu Dhabi F1 test 2020

“Definitely there are a few different factors [I learnt],” Schumacher explained.

“For me, the biggest one, which I’ve done already for a long time now is you want to have a very strong bond to the team. And that’s really what I also aim for.

“That’s one of the strengths and being mentally as strong as we can be in every situation is also one which is really important.

“And then basically, just starting off the season on a high and hopefully we’ll be able to carry through everything that I’ve learned in my past years and be able to perform on a high level.”

Schumacher revealed he had several conversations about his father’s methods with Jock Clear, who was Michael’s race engineer at Mercedes in 2011 and 2012 and is now a Ferrari driver coach, which includes working with academy members like Schumacher.

“Jock Clear, I’ve been talking to him a lot in the past few years,” Schumacher said.

“I think the first time I actually worked with him was in 2014.

“I had a sim session with him, which was really fun and very interesting for me because I came from karting.

“We’ve had different talks about also how the work was with the different drivers for him and how that compared to my father.

“It was very interesting. I’ve taken a lot of notes about it and I’m definitely looking forward to working with him even closer this year.”



Hamilton: “Not my first rodeo” facing questions on F1 future

Hamilton’s previous Mercedes contract expired after the 2020 season, prompting lots of media interest on his F1 future throughout the year.

After clinching his seventh world championship Hamilton headed into the off-season without signing a new agreement, which further fuelled the fire despite signs that all parties were committed to agreeing a new deal.

It took until early February, just five weeks before the start of winter testing in Bahrain, for Hamilton and Mercedes to finally put pen to paper on a fresh one-year contract.

However, Hamilton’s short-term deal means he might face a repeat of 2020, with his future soon becoming a talking point at every race weekend.

Asked if he fears contract chatter will become a distraction, Hamilton replied he doesn’t believe it will add any pressure.

“Time will tell, I guess. It’s not like it’s my first rodeo,” Hamilton said.

“I think I’ve been in this position where at least I’ve been asked the question for a period of time. I don’t really feel pressured in that sense.


Photo by: Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

“Naturally, I continue to have huge belief in and always bet on myself in terms of, I know what it takes to deliver.”

Despite just signing a one-year deal, Hamilton’s “extraordinary” ties with Mercedes were further strengthened off track by setting up a joint charitable foundation to support greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport, a cause Hamilton is deeply invested in.

“I think I have an extraordinary relationship with Mercedes that’s incredibly deep and I think there’s more than just racing that we will probably end up doing together,” he added.

“As you’ve already seen, with this foundation, there are a lot of great things that we will do moving forwards.

“That will be a constant discussion through the year I’m sure. And in terms of whether this is where I want to continue, if this is the road I want to continue down? It will come to me, I’m sure.

“I’m fully invested in this season and in delivering. I still love what I do. I’m just generally in a fortunate position that I don’t have to commit to multiple years. So, I chose to have a one-year deal so that I could see how the year goes.”



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