George Russell’s performance for Mercedes will have an impact on Lewis Hamilton’s ongoing contract negotiations, according to Martin Brundle. Russell has also dented the hopes of Valtteri Bottas staying at the team beyond 2021.
Russell replaced Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix after the world champion tested positive for coronavirus.
The Williams driver looked on course for a memorable win until a horror pit stop from Mercedes meant he ended up with Bottas’ tyres on his car.
Russell had to come in the following lap to correct the error which meant he could only finish in ninth.
F1 pundit Brundle believes the 22-year-old has made a statement and will impact Hamilton and Bottas as a result.
“I have no doubt that using Russell instead of the official test driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who was inbound anyway, was a big tactical decision by Toto Wolff,” Brundle said in his column for Sky Sports.
“With Hamilton playing hard to get regarding a signature on a new contract, and doubts whether Valtteri Bottas was really stepping up to the plate lately despite his miserable luck, George would answer a few questions one way or the other.
“And so it proved to be as he assuredly led the race after a perfect start, and without being entirely comfortable inside the car or fully up to speed with all of its systems, Russell dramatically raised his own value and opportunities, capped Hamilton’s and dented Bottas’.
“Along with his safety-car crash at Imola, young George has taken some body blows this year, but overall it was a very significant weekend for him and he appears to have sufficient confidence and self-belief to weather it all.”
Russell is waiting to find out if he will race for Mercedes again this weekend for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It is the last race of the season with the Silve Arrows winning both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship once again.
Russell will hope to have better luck and follow up on his impressive display if given the opportunity again.
Brundle added: “Before the race, whilst I was fully bought into the concept of using different track configurations over consecutive weekends, I felt that the regular Bahrain layout was comfortably preferable to the very short but challenging ‘outer loop’. Now I’m not so sure after that crazy race.
“Let’s see what Abu Dhabi can offer us as we await word on a negative Covid-19 test for Lewis. Meanwhile we have to absorb two uncomfortable truths; Perez doesn’t have a drive next year and a change of car moved a driver from a perennially lapped second half of the grid to a potential race winner in seven days…”
Lights out in Abu Dhabi is at 1.10pm on Sunday afternoon.