Valtteri Bottas to Red Bull tipped with George Russell waiting for Mercedes announcement

F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar

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The prospect of Valtteri Bottas making a controversial move to Red Bull was mooted by Formula 1 experts on Friday. Bottas currently races with Mercedes alongside seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, but rumours have been swirling that the Finnish driver is to be replaced by Hamilton’s compatriot George Russell for the 2022 season.

Red Bull have maintained an air of secrecy with regards to who they intend to pair with current driver’s championship leader Max Verstappen for next season. While there is a good chance that Sergio Perez keeps his seat, it is thought that Frenchman Pierre Gasly is hoping to get the spot- Gasly currently races for AlphaTauri, the rebranded name for Red Bull’s sister team.

During the first practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the topic of who could be Verstappen’s running mate next year was discussed at length with Bottas’ name mentioned repeatedly.

Karun Chandhok expressed his opinion that Red Bull are biding their time with the decision in order to ensure the best possible chance of success.

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Chandhok said: “I think the question Red Bull are asking themselves is who else is around.”

Ex-driver and now broadcaster Jonny Herbert implied the potential for Bottas to step into the role if he is indeed displaced by Russell at Mercedes: “I think that [getting Bottas to Red Bull] will go down if Bottas gets moved. 

“From a consistency point of view, he’ll be the slightly better choice because we know he is a race winner and we know he can beat Lewis. That’ll be an interesting call.”

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Chandhok on the other hand is more of the opinion that Perez will retain the drive, owing mostly to his experience in the role of back-up to Verstappen: “They won’t put Gasly back in, I don’t think. Perez has done just about enough to re-sign, mainly because I don’t see who else.”

Red Bull have struggled to find a companion for Verstappen ever since the departure of Daniel Ricciardo In 2019. Gasly had a torrid stint in the Red Bull car for some of the 2019 season, finishing a lap behind Verstappen regularly and only managing to out-qualify his team-mate once.

He was subsequently demoted back to Toro Rosso as it was then known. Alex Albon took his place in the hot-seat, and he enjoyed more success- however Albon too was demoted for the 2021 season as Perez took his place.

Chandhok thinks that the decision to bring in Perez is evidence enough that he is Christian Horner’s preference for the car, and commented on the complexity of fulfilling such a job effectively: 

“They’ve had a go with Albon and Gasly and they decided that Sergio is the better option, rightly or wrongly.

“What has become clear is that anyone in the other Red Bull alongside Verstappen has got a very difficult job.”

Verstappen is looking to extend his championship lead beyond the current eight points at the Hungaroring in Budapest this weekend. His great rival Hamilton is looking for his ninth win at the track in what would be a record for most wins at a single venue.

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