George Russell has revealed that he's received no assurances from Mercedes about a possible elevation to the manufacturer's driver line-up in 2022.
The 23-year-old from King's Lynn is about to embark on his third season with Williams. But he memorably made his debut for Mercedes last December when he subbed for an unwell Lewis Hamilton in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell would almost certainly have won the race if not for a rare pit stop blunder by the team and a subsequent puncture. Even so, his impressive performance has put him in pole position for promotion.
But while Williams have exercised their option to hold on to Russell for 2021, the driver says that he's received no promises from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff about what might happen next year.
"Toto has always given me his word, and he has always given me the opportunity when they believe I deserve it," Russell insisted. "But I'm not even thinking about it and no promises have been made at all.
"They have told me that I am a part of their future. Whenever that may be is again when they believe that the time is right.
"I think a lot of people think next year is the natural path," he added. "But equally things change very, very quickly in motorsport, especially in F1, so I'm not even thinking about it to be honest.
"I obviously had a taste of life at the front of the grid last year," he said, referring to his stand-in session at Sakhir. "But as I said, I'm just focused on the here and now, focusing on Bahrain.
"If I perform on track and I deliver, continuing on the same path and progress that I've been on so far, I guess the opportunity will come in the future."
Much depends on what happens to the current Mercedes line-up, with Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both on single-year contracts. If one or both fail to sign further extensions then Russell would apear to be in pole position to step up.
"If that were not to happen, what most of you guys are speculating, it's an interesting position for me," Russell noted. "I guess I've got a very interesting decision on my hands towards the middle of this year."
Staying at Williams would certainly be one option: "I see a very bright future here," he told the media on Friday at the launch of the FW43B. "As it currently stands with the whole investment from Dorilton, the changes I've already seen taking place at Williams.
"Williams have finished last in the constructors' for the past three season, and I don't think that will be the case in 2022," he stated confidently. "There's a massive opportunity for every team in F1 for 2022.
"With the investment we've got, with the guys who are already here, with the guys like [new CEO] Jost [Capito] who are coming in, the relationship that has been built with Mercedes, it's looking very exciting for the team."
It's less than a week to go before Russell will be at the wheel of his new car for the pre-season tests at the Bahrain International Circuit which get underway on March 12.
And the first race of the 2021 season follows in two weeks time on March 28, also in Bahrain.
“I’m really looking forward to driving again," he said. "It’s been a couple of months since we last drove in Abu Dhabi. [I'm] really excited to drive, to find out how competitive the car is going to be, and just get back racing.”