Wolff was “playing” when he talked about Bottas/Russell in 2022

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Toto Wolff said Mercedes will wait until  winter to decide whether George Russell or Valtteri Bottas will drive for the team in 2022. Now he says he was “just playing”.

With Valtteri Bottas’ contract with Mercedes, and George Russell’s contract with Williams expiring at the end of the year, there is a lot of speculation about who will drive for the German team in 2022.

Taking into account Bottas’ drop in performance in 2021, many are saying Russell, a Mercedes junior driver, will be the team’s choice for next year.

Both drivers have said they want their contract situation cleared up by the August summer break, but during the French Grand Prix weekend Toto Wolff said the decision will not be made until the winter.

“Somewhere in the winter I think, but I don’t know if it’s December, January or February,” the Austrian said when asked when the decision could be made.

When asked if Mercedes really intends to wait that long, Wolff insisted they will.

“It is highly possible because we have always been committed and loyal to the drivers. And this is what we’re doing.”

Wolff was then asked what Bottas has to do to keep his seat.

“Drive the car fast on a Saturday and Sunday. If he does that, he puts himself in a very good situation in terms of next year.”

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When asked if Mercedes could opt for Russell just to shake things up, the Austrian said that would not be the main deciding factor.

“That is one of the one of the things that need to be considered? Absolutely.  But it’s not the main driver.

“The main driver is consistent performance. Especially in this difficult year, we need two drivers that are racing right there.

“If one is having an off weekend or DNFs, you need the other one to bring it home.

“And that’s why it’s always important that both are just on the max of their ability,” concluded Wolff.

However, Wolff later told Sky Italia that he was “just playing”.

“I was just playing, we don’t wait until December. It’s too late,” the Austrian said.

When asked if there could be an announcement ready in time for the British Grand Prix in July, Wolff said it was “too early”.

“Something nice for Monza [perhaps], for you to have a nice story for example,” he concluded.

It’s important to note that another option for Mercedes, their junior driver Esteban Ocon, has been ruled out this week.

The young Frenchman signed a three-year deal with Alpine, and the team’s CEO Laurent Rossi confirmed there is no clause in his contract that would allow him to move to Mercedes.

“There’s no reference [to a move to Mercedes],” said Rossi.

“He’s a Mercedes-managed driver, that’s about it. He’s constantly under their management, but there’s no such clause for Mercedes… [pulling] him out of the team.

“He stays with us for the next three years.”

Russell himself also commented on his future during the French Grand Prix weekend.

“Nothing is set in stone for next year, I’m still a Williams driver and I haven’t signed any contracts beyond [2021],” said Russell.

The young Briton then acknowledged he heard the rumours about him possibly moving to Mercedes.

“Obviously I’m aware about all the speculation, but right now I’m just enjoying driving, race-by-race.

“I want to get my future nailed down at some point. But right now I’m just focused on this weekend and into Austria.

“The summer break is usually when these things sort of happen. For most people, the summer break is where you get things set in stone.

“So for me, I’m just focused race-by-race and just enjoy the curiosity of what is to come. It’s sometimes exciting not knowing what the future holds.”

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