Williams contradicts Mercedes on Russell's 2021 stay, compares him to team greats

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Williams deputy boss Claire Williams has contradicted Mercedes on why George Russell will remain with the team in 2021.

Prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix, it was reported Valtteri Bottas had agreed on a deal in principle to remain alongside Lewis Hamilton and this was largely confirmed when Williams confirmed an unchanged driver pairing for next year.

In explaining why Russell wasn't being promoted, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Williams had made it clear she wanted to keep the Briton to fulfil the final year on his contract.

However, talking on the F1 Nation podcast, Claire suggested the exact opposite.

“I was nervous because he is so good. I didn’t want to lose him, but equally, I’m not one of those people who will stand in someone’s way when they have got a great opportunity,” she explained.

“I think I proved that with Valtteri Bottas when he went to Mercedes a number of years ago… but that hasn’t happened and I’m pleased that George is staying with us. We have him for another year and he’s a joy to have around the place.”

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Indeed, before that Williams had heaped praise on the 22-year-old, agreeing that he was up there with the likes of Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and other top drivers who have won championships at the team.

“Yes, 100 per cent, and I would move heaven and earth to make George a world champion at Williams," she claimed.

“George is his own person, but the talent is absolutely there. Combined with the commitment, dedication and singular focus he has, I can’t speak highly enough of him. We’re just very lucky he’s in the team with us.

“The way he talks to the engineers and the rest of the team, he’s learnt that a driver can have a real involvement in leading a team, particularly, when things aren’t going well,” Claire added.

“Having been in a team that isn’t having the best time will make him stronger. He hasn’t had it easy and it will put him in a better place in the future, it will make him a better driver.”

Russ StyGP

Speaking about his time at Williams, Russell admitted the experience, while not good from a competitive standpoint had been beneficial.

“I’ve definitely become a more complete driver,” he told Crash.net.

“Formula 1 is not about outright speed, there’s a lot of things behind the scenes. You’ve got to excel at working with your engineers.

“At Williams, there are 650-700 people there. As the drivers, you are almost leading the way and directing the team, which path or which route to take and that is a lot of responsibility.

“It’s more responsibility than I ever realised an F1 driver has to take and something I actually really enjoy doing.

“Something I’ve learnt over the last year is how to deal with it and how to deal with it effectively.”