Russell: Sakhir GP won't impact Mercedes future but can Bottas afford to lose?

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George Russell doubts a strong performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix would boost his chances of joining Mercedes full-time in the future.

The Williams driver is stepping in to replace Lewis Hamilton for this weekend at least after the seven-time world champion tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.

For Russell, the switch finally gives him a chance to show what he can do in competitive machinery after being stuck at or near the back of the grid for two seasons.

And having already been linked to Valtteri Bottas' seat for 2022, some do see the race in Bahrain as the Briton's chance to make his claim for the Finn's place. 

“One race doesn’t define a driver’s capabilities or the decision-making for something that’s over 12 months away, so from my side that is not even in the back of my mind," he told reporters on Thursday.

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“I’m going to go out there, enjoy it, learn as much as I can because obviously, I have a job to do back on my return to Williams which is to try and push that team forwards as well, to maximise that learning from Valtteri, the team, whoever.

“In terms of the future, that’ll be judged over the course of the season and what’s happened in the past as well, not just one or maybe two races.”

However, after some criticism for his inability to challenge Lewis Hamilton this year, Bottas admits it is quite important he asserts himself over Russell.

"If he beats me, for sure it wouldn't look so good on me if I had a normal race and he beats me fair and square. So obviously I try to avoid that," he told Sky Sports.

"But I'm not a person who thinks like that, I try to turn things into motivation and positive thinking and that's my mindset for this weekend.

"Of course, it's a great motivation to have a new teammate. I try to be ahead of him, I try to win the race and that's the only thing on my mind," Bottas added.

"For me being part of the team for three years, obviously everyone would expect me to be on pole and win the race, that's my goal.

"I'm trying to end this season on a positive note and I hope to get the most out of it, and I hope that can help me in the future.

"But I'm sure this young, hungry guy will give it all he's got. He's a talented guy and he's super excited to be in the team."

Of course, it also shouldn't be overlooked that Hamilton himself is yet to re-sign at Mercedes for 2021, so if Russell was to step in and win, could that trigger another Nico Rosberg-style retirement? Well, it is 2020 after all.