There is a “real chance” that George Russell could replace Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for 2021, according to Formula 1 News.
Hamilton’s contract with the Silver Arrows expired at the end of 2020, with discussions still ongoing over a new deal.
However, his requests for a multi-year extension and a pay rise on his previous contract appear to have delayed proceedings. Hamilton’s Mercedes seat is the only one on the grid yet to be assigned for 2021.
Formula 1 News state that, according to their source inside the F1 paddock, there is a “real chance” that Russell, who is contracted to Williams for next season but is also a Mercedes junior driver, could be signed up instead of the seven-time world champion.
Russell had his first experience of driving a Mercedes whilst filling in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, after the 36-year-old tested positive for COVID-19.
He impressed throughout the weekend, overtaking teammate Valtteri Bottas at the first corner to take the lead before settling into a rhythm at the front of the pack.
Had it not been for a pit-stop error under a late-race Safety Car, and a subsequent slow puncture in the closing laps which required an extra stop, Russell likely would have secured a maiden Grand Prix victory.
As it ended up, the Brit finished the race in ninth position, earning an extra point for a fastest lap, with the 22-year-old impressing many in the paddock with his maturity and overall performance.
When asked about the progression of Hamilton’s contract talks last month, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explained: “We are not worried about eventually getting it done.
“We are not putting a special date to it because we don’t want to be under pressure.
“Sooner or later it needs to be done and at the latest before we go testing [ahead of the 2021 season].”
And other reports suggest that the team are relaxed about ongoing negotiations, despite the current differences.
Hamilton secured his seventh world title last season at the Turkish Grand Prix, having already passed Michael Schumacher’s record win tally of 91 at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Until his positive test for COVID-19 ruled him out in Bahrain, the Brit has been ever-present at Grands Prix since making his F1 debut in 2007.