Perez camp feeding Williams exit stories

George Russell believes the rumours about him being kicked out of Williams next year are being fuelled by Sergio Perez’s management.

Russell has a contract to drive for Williams in 2021, but stories ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix suggested his position could come under threat from Perez, who is currently a free agent.

Williams did very little to deny the speculation, with acting team principal Simon Roberts refusing to confirm Russell and current teammate Nicholas Latifi would remain at the team during a press conference on Friday.

Perez, who will lose his Racing Point drive to Sebastian Vettel next year, is also a contender for a Red Bull seat in 2021 if Alex Albon fails to justify his place at the team in remaining races.

Russell believes the rumours about his situation are being fuelled by Perez’s management in order to gain leverage in their negotiations with Red Bull.

“I think all of this speculation has probably been fed by the Perez camp, who are trying to apply pressure on other teams further down the grid, potentially [for] a Red Bull seat,” Russell said.

“That’s my view on it. I’ve got a contract, I’ve got nothing to worry about, and I’m just here focusing on my job.”

A number of news stories have suggested George Russell’s position at Williams is under threat from Sergio Perez. Mario Renzi – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Russell signed his 2021 contract with Williams’ previous management, who stood down after the Italian Grand Prix, and that has only served to fuel suggestions that the team’s new owners, Dorilton Capital, are looking to make changes.

But Russell, who is also contracted to Williams’ engine supplier Mercedes as a young driver, said he had received assurances from Dorilton that his job is not under threat for 2021.

“They’ve been here, I’ve spoken to then and they have said don’t worry and everything is going to be fine. We had a small chat about it and moved on to talk about the rest of this year, moving into next year and how we are going to push things forward. That’s enough for me.

“They’ve said they have no idea where these rumours have come from. They never like to comment on contractual situations obviously following Simon’s press conference on Friday, things again were taken probably slightly out of context, which is exactly what the team didn’t want to do.

“Ultimately, the team didn’t want to comment on it because they felt like it isn’t necessary, and it’s just opening themselves up to further queries later down the line.

“I’ve got a contract, and I’ll be on the grid next year, and I’m very confident of that. I think something pretty substantial would have to happen in the coming weeks for anything to change.”

Russell said he was optimistic the situation would be cleared up in the coming weeks.

“There’s obviously a lot of speculation. I think it’s been fed from other people. Everything will be, like I said, everything will be fine.

“I’d say [it will be] 100% clarified from the team’s perspective probably no later than the end of next week.”

Speaking on Saturday in Portugal, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Russell would have a guaranteed reserve role at Mercedes if he missed out on a Williams seat in 2021.

“If George were to slip through the system I would be happy to take him in our squad, we will have a sensational reserve,” Wolff said. “I would put him through a mega testing programme and prepare him in the best way for a 2022 blast.”

He added: “I totally respect the independence of Williams, like any other team, and they need to make their decisions. Sometimes financial decisions take priority over sporting decisions and sometimes even the sporting decisions need to be balanced, and it’s not always clear-cut.

“No, it wouldn’t damage the relationship, it would be disappointing.”

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