On Monday morning, the worst kept secret in the Formula 1 paddock revealed itself.
Mercedes driver of five seasons Valtteri Bottas confirmed his switch to Alfa Romeo Racing following his world champion compatriot Kimi Raikkonen announcing his retirement at season's end.
I’m very happy and excited to let you know that I’ll be joining @alfaromeoracing @F1 team from 2022 with a multi year contract!
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) September 6, 2021
“A new chapter in my racing career is opening: I'm excited to join Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN for 2022 and beyond for what is going to be a new challenge with an iconic manufacturer," Bottas said to Alfa Romeo's official site.
"Alfa Romeo is a brand that needs no introduction, they have written some great pages of Formula One history and it's going to be an honour to represent this marque."
The often-maligned Finn was tipped to clear his seat at Brackley since last year when the man who is in line to fill it hopped in the silver arrow for a singular race at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
On Tuesday morning, it was confirmed by all parties that George Russell would take the second seat at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Racing in season 2022, putting the speculation to bed.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 7, 2021
However the question on the lips of everyone around the paddock is whether or not Russell will be able to match seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, if not exceed him and become the 'first' driver in the team.
In short, there is no reason why he cannot.
If we revisit his results in the Williams car it is plain to see that George Russell might just be a better driver than Valtteri Bottas is and ever will be.
Both drivers have called Williams Racing home for several years of their career, with Bottas' switch to Mercedes in 2017 coming at the optimal time with the decline of the Grove-based team accelerated after his departure.
In the 32-year-old's four season stint at Williams, he managed nine podiums - an incredible feat however not world-beating considering the car in those years was a certified upper-midfield contender.
The car that George Russell hopped into as a rookie in 2019 was arguably the worst that Williams has ever dished up and in his first season he finished last in the drivers standings with zero points.
His 2020 form picked up massively, and the aforementioned Sakhir GP really drilled home to the sport what so many knew for so long.
With Lewis Hamilton sidelined after a positive COVID test, Russell was called upon to fill the champion's Mercedes seat.
Qualifying in P2 just 26 milliseconds behind Bottas was a stunning result considering the 23-year-old had just three sessions experience in the W11.
By now everyone is aware of what happened in the ensuing race, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a fan who would disagree with you on the fact that Russell would have won that race if he had even a shred of luck go his way.
2021 has proved more than fruitful for the British young gun so far, with his Hungarian GP performance where he helped the team to their first double points finish since 2018 emphasising his capabilities.
Perhaps his piece de resistance came at Spa-Francorchamps a little over a week ago where he qualified in second place, this time in his own Williams car.
Although the race was abandoned after two laps due to unrelenting rain, he still technically earned the team's first podium since 2017 in a car that is still miles off being considered the best.
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) August 29, 2021
However, it is clear that Russell doesn't have a car that matches his ability and potential.
He will get exactly that next year when he joins Mercedes but the big question is if he will play second fiddle to Hamilton like Bottas did for all these years, or go blow-for-blow with him.
All signs are pointing to the latter.
Russell at Sakhir was mercurial and he looked like he felt at home in the lead of that race, commanding his place at the front prior to the infamous denial of a ground-breaking result.
At times, it is hard to say whether it's the car or the driver that is doing most of the heavy lifting in Formula 1.
With Lewis Hamilton, the car he is driving is arguably the best in the paddock in 2021 with Red Bull's RB16B finally presenting a real threat to Mercedes' dominance.
There is no question Hamilton is one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen, however has his dominance come at a time when he's been so good or every team around him has been so bad?
Russell has the chance to answer this question when he hops into the car next year, with the craft and potential he possesses set to shake things up at Brackley.