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Wolff admits '22 line-up already decided

NEWS STORY
29/08/2021

Without naming names, Toto Wolff had admitted that Mercedes line-up for next season has already been decided.

From the moment he arrived at the circuit this week, Toto Wolff has been under pressure from the media to give at least a hint as to what his team's line-up will be next season.

Having previously said the decision would be made during the course of the summer break, the Austrian then said an announcement would probably be made in September.

While drivers Valtteri Bottas and George Russell both wore their best poker faces, insisting that there was "no news to share... yet", the pressure on Wolff to reveal all wasn't made any easier when the Briton almost grabbed pole position (in a Williams), while the Finn could only manage 8th, which becomes 13th following his Hungary penalty.

In the moments after qualifying, once again under pressure from the media, Wolff finally admitted, in two separate interviews, that a decision had been made, but that he was not prepared to share news of what precisely that decision was.

In one interview, when asked if a decision had been made, he replied: "Yes. I have been always genuine with you."

"I think we know what we have with George," he subsequently added in another interview, when asked if Russell's bravura qualifying performance had influenced the decision. "He's been outstanding in the junior categories, he's been outstanding at Williams, he's been outstanding when he's been in Bahrain.

"And if I needed to have that ultimate proof, then something would have been wrong," he added. "If it would have been an easy decision, we would have made it earlier, because we know what we have with Valtteri and we know what we have with George.

"Both of them deserve being looked after. Both deserve to be looked after in the best possible way, because both of them are part of the family, and we hold them up high.

"So there are pros and cons," he admitted, "like with any driver line-up, and at the end, there is no such thing as a perfect discussion. We just need to manage it well, and manage the situation well, with whoever driver is not going to be in a Mercedes next year, and make sure there is an exciting programme, and on the other side, manage the situation internally like we've always had with Nico (Rosberg) and with George."

Wolff revealed that he had watched the on-board lap of Russell's lap and it was clear from the outset where the youngster was gaining time.

"I looked at the on-boards of the drivers and I think from the beginning he's the only one who in La Source he gained so much time to everyone else as he's the only one who's on the apex, so that is a fact of driving and also having the right set-up and the tyre temperatures in the window.

"The way Williams has approached qualifying was very clever," he added. "Risky but clever, with two consecutive laps and the first one defensive, so they took a risk and won.

"And it was very committed through Eau Rouge and the car also looks very good through the rest of the lap, but it needs a driver to maximise that or exploit the full potential of the package or over-perform the package, and all that came together today, and you saw a brilliant lap from a brilliant young driver."

When it was mentioned in the driver press conference that he appeared "lukewarm" about possibly having Russell as a teammate next season, Lewis Hamilton replied: "I don't feel any different. George has been doing a great job all year. This doesn't really change anything, really. I'm sure he's got pressure on him just as Valtteri does to do the job and it's great to see him delivering. I can't fault him for it."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.

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