Formula 1: Valtteri Bottas struggling with George Russell pressure, says Felipe Massa

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Former Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa has said that Valtteri Bottas is struggling with the pressure George Russell is applying in the battle for a Mercedes seat in 2022.

New regulations come into the sport next year and with it a hope that the status quo in Formula 1 is going to be upset, at least to the extent that we see more of a variety of winners than we have in recent years.

However, many are still of the opinion that Mercedes will remain the place to be next season and, with both Lewis Hamilton and Bottas out of contract at the end of this year, speculation continues to swirl over the Silver Arrows' driver line-up for the sport's new era.

George Russell, of course, is in the frame more than most to take one of the drives if Merc opt to twist rather than stick and many believe that that could come at the expense of Finnish driver Bottas, with the two having an almighty shunt and a few exchanged unpleasantries afterwards at Imola last time out.

Indeed, for Massa - a man who partnered Bottas at Williams towards the end of his career - the pressure is building on Valtteri from both his current team-mate and the man who could replace him:

''It's a mental thing. It is not easy to fight with a champion like Hamilton. The same goes for Vettel," Massa said to La Gazetta Dello Sport.

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"They are both in a difficult situation and then Bottas also has to live with Russell who keeps chasing him."

Indeed, Russell is proving relentless at the moment and, despite the crash at Imola, he has impressed again this season already with the way he is driving his Williams and helping the team up the grid.

And, for Massa, it could be a matter of time now before the young Briton gets a full-time chance in one of the Mercedes cars after a fine cameo standing in for Hamilton one weekend last season in Sakhir:

"George is very strong, even though he made a mistake in Imola. He deserves a chance and I hope Mercedes will give it sooner or later.

"I liked the fact that he apologised for his mistake. That is a sign of maturity, that he dares to admit such a mistake.''

It's a plotline that will endure for the rest of this season and, after what happened at Imola, the focus is only going to be on the pair further this weekend in Portugal.

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