Melbourne’s Albert Park grand prix, the traditional Formula One curtain raiser, has been pushed back to April 10 in a record-breaking 23-event calendar for 2022.
George Russell’s long-trailed move to Mercedes has been confirmed by the Formula One world champions and the 23-year-old Briton will partner compatriot Lewis Hamilton from the 2022 season.
Russell will leave the Williams team he has driven with for two years to replace Valtteri Bottas, who on Monday announced a long-term deal with Alfa Romeo from next year.
Though Russell has achieved only modest results in F1, he is considered a huge talent having impressed with a Williams car which is only just returning to competitiveness.
Russell took a stunning second at the aborted Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago thanks to a sensational lap in qualifying and looked at home in a Mercedes late last season when deputising for Hamilton when he was out with a coronavirus infection.
Williams did not initially say who would take over Russell’s race seat. The team’s other driver, Nicholas Lafiti, is also out of contract at the end of the year.
The F1 season continues Sunday with the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
Commenting on his blockbuster transfer, Russell said: “It’s a special day for me personally and professionally.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely buzzing. It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands.
“But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it’s going to be a steep learning curve.
“I want to do my new teammates proud. Of course, one of those new teammates is in my opinion the greatest driver of all time.
“I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being.”