Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko said Valtteri Bottas was too “crap” at the Sakhir GP to make a true comparison to George Russell.
Russell was drafted in to make his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix as a replacement to Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the race weekend.
And it was a standout display from Russell who qualified P2, only 0.026s slower than Bottas, before taking the lead from his team-mate at Turn 1 on the opening lap.
Ultimately a botched Mercedes pit stop and later a low puncture cost Russell what looked set to be his first win in Formula 1.
The weekend sparked brief talks that Russell could replace Bottas at Mercedes for 2021, though that was shut down by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
Red Bull were then credited with an interest in poaching Russell from the Silver Arrows, though in the end they went with Sergio Perez to partner Max Verstappen for 2021.
Asked why Russell wasn’t chased by Red Bull, Marko told Motorsport-Total.com and Formel1.de: “Russell is a Mercedes junior. There’s no need to put a false label over it.
“He has a ten-year contract with Toto Wolff. He is a Mercedes junior. We were looking for an interim solution for one year. Perez is the much better option there.”
Also, while there was no denying Russell’s talent, Marko said Bottas delivered “such crap” at the Sakhir GP that it was impossible to directly compare the Finn’s performance to that of Russell’s.
“Russell is an intelligent and fast young man. His Mercedes effort was great. At the same time, that was characterized by such uncertainty on Bottas’ part that it wasn’t really an admissible comparison,” he explained.
“Bottas put together such crap from the first lap on Friday that was way below his normal level.”
Ultimately Red Bull finished the season P2 in the Constructors’ Championship, 254 points behind Mercedes who secured the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships for the seventh season in a row.
Red Bull were though able to pick up two race wins courtesy of Verstappen at the 70th Anniversary GP and season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, and Marko was full of praise for all involved in ensuring the 17-race calendar was completed.
“It’s quite great what Formula 1 has achieved this year. 17 races in how many months?,” he said.
“To get this Championship over the hump with incredible discipline and organisation was not easy and was doubted by many.”
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