Valtteri Bottas or George Russell for Mercedes? Sky Sports F1 pundits debate key 2022 decision

It’s one of the most eagerly-awaited driver decisions in recent years: Will Mercedes pick Valtteri Bottas to remain as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate, or promote young gun George Russell to form an all-British line-up?

The drivers have been giving little away, the team are keeping shtum… so how about a Sky Sports F1 debate to discuss who should get one of motorsport’s most coveted seats in 2022?

Martin Brundle, Paul Di Resta, Karun Chandhok and David Croft joined Natalie Pinkham for an extensive chat at the Belgian GP, looking at the pros and cons of each choice…

The case for Valtteri Bottas

Paul Di Resta: “Lewis is going to probably be the most successful ever in Formula 1 for a quite some time and Valtteri is a guy who 25 per cent of the time can outqualify him. When it comes to wheel-to-wheel racing on a Sunday it’s very different, but when you look at how people succeed in sport you generally need to have somebody at the top and somebody supporting them. Valtteri is playing that ideal support role for Lewis.

“Red Bull openly said today when they re-signed Sergio Perez that they’ve done it to give them stability to fight for this championship. If Valtteri gets told he’s not in that car next season, how does he go and help fight for that championship for Lewis?

“What would be the problem with leaving George at Williams for another year?”

Neither Valtteri Bottas or George Russell were giving much away when asked about which team they would be driving for in the 2022 Formula One season

Neither Valtteri Bottas or George Russell were giving much away when asked about which team they would be driving for in the 2022 Formula One season

Neither Valtteri Bottas or George Russell were giving much away when asked about which team they would be driving for in the 2022 Formula One season

Martin Brundle: “If you want to build a case for Valtteri, he’s very comfortable in the team, they know him and know how he fits in the car.

“It’s continuity with so many incredible changes we have coming in 2022 with the new car. Lewis is comfortable and knows he’s got him covered. Valtteri is fast enough to participate and help drive the car and team forward, but Lewis at the end of the day will always have him over a season.

“To be that close to Lewis in qualifying pace is very impressive. I’d love to be half a tenth behind Lewis Hamilton, that’s for sure! But is he the man for the future? I’m sure Lewis really doesn’t need a feisty puppy dog like George turning up. It will destabilise things and Toto knows that well.”

Karun Chandhok: “He’s an excellent qualifier, no question about that. He’s very good at extracting one-lap performance.”

The case for George Russell

David Croft: “Bottas has done absolutely nothing wrong as team-mate to Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes have won the last seven world championships and the last two of them, Bottas has finished runner-up to his team-mate. Job done, Mercedes have got the championships in the bag and Valtteri has finished runner-up.

“But the key this year is that the goalposts have moved, the demands have changed. This is not 2014, where there’s a Mercedes car that is going to blow away the rest of the field because it’s got the best engine in it. This is now 2021 going into 2022, Mercedes against Red Bull, and that’s about as close as close can be in F1.

“Mercedes don’t need a wingman, Hamilton may want this but he can’t have a wingman. He needs a driver alongside him that can go and win races regularly if he isn’t going to win, can be on that front row with him regularly if he is on pole – and that is not Valtteri Bottas at the moment.”

Karun Chandhok: “While Bottas is very good in qualifying, he’s not when it comes to the races. Just look at that one Bahrain race that George did alongside him, George broke the DRS and drove away from him.

“I listen to ‘he’s apolitical’, and ‘it’s good for Lewis to have him there’, but I think you have to look at the bigger picture and the long term, and I’m sure that’s what they’re looking at.

“Russell and Lewis has got all the makings of Fernando and Lewis at McLaren in 2007. You can see the young pretender coming in against the established world champion and some fireworks there, which frankly for all us on the sidelines could be quite good to watch!”

Russell and Bottas have a huge coming together which brought out the safety car and left both cars out of the race

Russell and Bottas have a huge coming together which brought out the safety car and left both cars out of the race

Russell and Bottas have a huge coming together which brought out the safety car and left both cars out of the race

Martin Brundle: “Hamilton is very comfortable, and he’s got Bottas covered.

“But Mercedes have to think, two or three years from now, it will be Verstappen versus Leclerc versus Sainz versus Russell versus Norris – the next generation will take over.

“Mercedes have to be ready for that in my view.”

Will Lewis Hamilton have a say?

Like Bottas and Russell on Thursday, team boss Toto Wolff was coy about the decision when speaking to Sky F1 in Spa – praising Bottas and the relationships formed, while also admitting there was “definitely an argument that we need to look to the future” due to F1’s “generation change”.

He was, however, candid when addressing Hamilton’s role in the process. Wolff revealed Hamilton has taken a big role in the talks over his next team-mate and is taking his “driver cap off” to help, while, most intriguingly, he also said the pair are in agreement over the choice.

“Lewis is a very important part of the team,” said Wolff. “He’s really not a driver, drivers are normally contractors, they come and then they maybe go for another opportunity.

“Lewis has been with us for nine years, he has such an incredible importance, so he’s part of discussions.

“Him and I are brainstorming what’s best for the team, he’s taking the driver cap off, really because when he has the driver cap on we really both know what is good for him.

“But he’s also taking the team’s view, and we have been discussing all throughout the summer. And we have the same opinion.”

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