Mercedes should fire Valtteri Bottas in favor of George Russell, according to Charles Leclerc.

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Mercedes should fire Valtteri Bottas in favor of George Russell, according to Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes should replace Valtteri Bottas with George Russell in 2022, according to Charles Leclerc.

George Russell’s former karting teammate has praised him as “exceptional” and backed him to succeed Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next season. Russell, 23, is expected to race alongside Lewis Hamilton next season, according to Toto Wolff, who admitted the decision had already been decided privately. And now, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has added his voice to the swelling chorus of supporters who believe Russell would shine if he joins the current Constructors’ champions.

Russell was “very brilliant” from a young age, according to Leclerc, who was in the spotlight earlier this week for stating spectators at the rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix should be compensated.

“I’ve actually been team mates with George,” he stated before of this week’s Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

“It was a long time ago in karting, and what I’ve seen of him since then is that he’s just tremendously gifted, and every time he went into the kart back then, or the car now, he was simply quick right away. As a result, his talent distinguishes him.

“I’m confident that if he goes to Mercedes next year – and I hope he does because I believe he deserves a shot there – he will do extremely well and impress more than one person.”

Russell is coming off a first-ever F1 podium in Belgium, where he put in a remarkable qualifying performance to finish second on the grid behind Max Verstappen and ahead of possible race mate Hamilton.

After just two safety car-led laps were available on Sunday, that position became his final one, allowing for half-points to be given and a podium celebration to take place.

Although a transfer to Mercedes may entail a direct swap with Bottas, the Finnish driver has also been extensively linked with a move to Alfa Romeo to replace countryman Kimi Raikkonen. The 2007 Formula One World Champion has confirmed his retirement at the end of the 2021 season.

Russell raced for Mercedes in Sakhir last year, filling in for Hamilton after the latter tested positive for Covid-19. He finished tenth after a sluggish puncture.

Nicholas Latifi, his current Williams teammate, agreed. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”

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