George Russell has reportedly been talking to other Formula 1 teams amid speculation that his Williams seat is now under threat.
The Mercedes junior driver looked to be locked in for a third season with Williams as part of the initial deal agreed between the Silver Arrows and the ex-deputy team principal Claire Williams.
But the combination of the arrival of new owners Dorilton Capital and the emergence of Sergio Perez on the 2021 driver market has now put Russell’s place in jeopardy, according to the rumour mill.
The reports first emerged over the weekend via the Italian version of Motorsport.com that Perez was a surprise option for Williams.
And now RACER are reporting that not only has Perez has held talks with Williams, but Russell has also started exploring other opportunities on the grid.
The report states: ‘With Perez on the market, RACER understands Dorilton has been looking at the commercial possibilities of a change in driver line-up…the Mexican’s potential sponsorship package is an attractive proposition, and talks have been held.
‘Sources indicate to RACER that Russell has reached out to other teams in recent weeks, with the Mercedes-backed youngster facing the prospect of trying to find a new drive at the last minute.’
Russell’s options for 2021, should Perez actually be interested in joining Williams of course, appear to be quite limited.
Lewis Hamilton is still widely expected to sign a new deal with Mercedes ahead of the 2021 season, while Haas and Alfa Romeo are the only two teams yet to confirm either of their two drivers for the new campaign.
AlphaTauri are technically another outfit yet to confirm both drivers, but Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko has suggested that Pierre Gasly and Honda-backed Yuki Tsunoda will fill those spaces.
There could potentially be an opening at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen as the team continue to assess Alex Albon’s capabilities in the role as second driver.
However, given Russell’s strong ties with Mercedes, the Silver Arrows will be understandably reluctant to lose a very promising driver to their nearest rivals.
If Russell was to leave Williams and be unable to land a seat elsewhere, he would most spend a year on the sidelines in a reserve and development role with Mercedes – similar to the path that another Mercedes-backed driver in Esteban Ocon was forced to take after losing his seat at Racing Point at the end of the 2018 season.
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