George Russell still in line for Mercedes seat in future despite Lewis Hamilton deal

George Russell of Williams F1

George Russell will enter his third and final year with Williams F1 in 2021. - Credit: DAVID DAVIES/PA

George Russell is still being primed for a switch to Mercedes in 2022 despite Sir Lewis Hamilton signing a one-year extension with the Formula One giants.

The seven-time world champion from Stevenage was the last name to be confirmed on the 2021 grid when he finally put pen to paper on a new deal.

But Russell, who grew up in Tydd St Giles and is a former Wisbech Grammar School pupil, is still in line to replace either the F1 legend or team-mate Valtteri Bottas, whose contract also ends this year.

George Russell leads Sebastian Vettel in 2020

George Russell of Williams leads Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari during the 70th Anniversary Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone. - Credit: BRYN LENNON/PA

The soon to be 23-year-old, his birthday is on Monday, is entering his third and final year with Williams but is also part of the Mercedes junior driver programme, initially signing in 2017, and he stood in for Hamilton in Bahrain when the champion contracted COVID-19.

He was on course for a brilliant win too before a bungled Mercedes pit-stop and heart-breaking puncture derailed his chances.

But he will be lead driver for Williams this year and will be hoping his undoubted talent will keep him firmly in the mind of Mercedes.

Hamilton, 36, will be hoping the famous silver arrows can guide him to an unprecedented eighth world title.

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His last £40million-a-year deal expired on the final day of December but after several weeks of negotiations, the British driver’s future has finally been settled, albeit with both parties agreeing to only one extra year.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff after the British driver won a seventh F1 world title. - Credit: PA

He said: "I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team-mates.

“Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process.

“Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport.”

Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record number of victories last season and emulated the German by winning a seventh title.

Mercedes AMG F1's Lewis Hamilton celebrates a seventh world title

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his seventh world championship at Istanbul Park, Turkey, in November. - Credit: PA

Wolff, who has overseen Hamilton’s six of seven triumphs at Mercedes, added:  “Lewis’s competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen.

“The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it.”

The new F1 season kicks off in Bahrain with the race on March 28.