George Russell says he hopes he has given Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff a headache for 2022 “or sooner” following his debut for the reigning World Champions in Bahrain.
After Lewis Hamilton contracted Covid-19, Mercedes junior driver Russell moved from Williams and into the front-running team.
After losing out on pole position by just 0.026s to team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who is already signed up at Mercedes for 2021, Russell was on course for the race win, leading almost all of the opening 60 laps before a pit stop blunder saw him drop out of podium contention.
He received a further blow with a slow puncture on his rear-left tyre in the final stages, slashing any chance of a recovery after the pit stop error.
Russell received universal praise for his performance with Mercedes and hopes he has given Wolff much to think about when he considers the future driver line-up of the team.
“From my side, I’ve been working incredibly hard with Williams to extract everything possible,” Russell said. “There’s been so many times we felt like we’ve done an incredibly good job.
“But I guess there’s always an element of uncertainty in the back of your mind, knowing maybe if someone else had been in this car, they might be able to eke a bit more out.
“From a personal perspective, this has been a great weekend of validation, saying actually, we probably have been doing a very good job in the Williams this year.
“Secondly I guess from Toto’s perspective, hopefully I have given him a headache, not just for 2022, maybe sooner.”
Russell revealed that prior to the weekend, he had set himself the goal of being within two-tenths of Bottas, admitting he was not excepting to match or even out-pace the nine-time race winner.
“I was not expecting to be on Valtteri’s pace,” Russell said. “I didn’t want to set myself expectations, but I said if I’m within two-tenths, I’ll be really pleased with that.
“I know how much of a rhythm I’ve had with Williams and how I’ve just got stronger, stronger, stronger from working with my engineers, understanding the car, my engineers understanding how to set my car up for me.
“The progress I’ve made from Australia 2019 has been leaps and mounds, so I was realistic.
“I’ve been on a good wave in the past few races so I thought I can come in, do a good job, but two-tenths – that would be a good result and fair considering that this is the 17th race of the season and he’s been in this car 17 races in a row.”