Red Bull chief not expecting rivals Mercedes to ditch Valteri Bottas for George Russell despite struggles

Malik Ouzia
·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Red Bull team principle Christian Horner does not expect rivals Mercedes to take a leaf out of his book by changing drivers midway through the season.

Reports on Tuesday suggested that Valteri Bottas - who is already 37 points behind teammate Lewis Hamilton after just three races - could be ditched halfway through the campaign and replaced by George Russell.

Bottas, 31, in his fifth season with the world champions, started on pole at last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix but fell away to finish third.

Russell, 23, is waiting in the wings after excelling as a replacement for a Covid-hit Hamilton at the Sakhir GP in December. He would have won and beaten Bottas but for a poor Mercedes pit-stop and late puncture.

Russell, a junior driver for the Silver Arrows, continues to impress at Williams, and qualified 11th at Portimao in his uncompetitive machinery.

Getty Images
Getty Images

But Red Bull boss Horner, whose team have a track record of mid-season driver swaps, does not believe Mercedes will adopt their blueprint.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Horner said: “Valtteri has demonstrated he can drive the car very quickly.

“Circumstances are always going to happen so let’s see how things pan out, but Valtteri has done a great job for Mercedes over the last few years.

“I would be surprised if they did switch Valtteri and George around mid-season.”

It may well be in Horner’s interest to see Bottas remain with Mercedes given his struggles.

Red Bull are only 18 points adrift of the Silver Arrows in the constructors’ championship, while Max Verstappen trails Hamilton by just eight points ahead of this week’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Publicly, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Bottas, who crashed out in Imola following a coming together with Russell, has the full support of the grid’s all-conquering outfit.

The Austrian said: “Valtteri will be on top form. When you consider where he came from following Imola, which was a write-off, he put it on pole in Portugal and had a solid race.

“We will push him hard, continue to support him and see what he is capable of doing in Barcelona.”

Additional reporting by PA.

Read More

What time is 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix and how can I watch live?

Lewis Hamilton wins Portuguese GP after passing Verstappen and Bottas

Bottas on pole for Portuguese GP ahead of Hamilton