RACE DEBRIEF

    Williams' interim boss Simon Roberts has quashed speculation that George Russell could make way for Sergio Perez in 2021 as, at Imola, he confirmed that the Briton will drive alongside Nicholas Latifi next season.

    Last week in Portugal, Roberts dodged questions on Russell’s future which only added fuel to the rumours that outgoing Racing Point driver Perez could take Russell’s seat for 2021. However, ahead of this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the Acting Team Principal apologised for creating any “confusion”, and confirmed Russell will remain with Williams next season in line with former team boss Claire Williams' decision earlier this year.

    READ MORE: Russell says Williams exit rumours ‘fed by Perez camp’ as Mercedes vow to back him

    “I probably caused a bit of confusion last week, I’m sorry about that,” said Roberts at Imola. “We didn’t really want to comment on the driver position but as George said, Claire made the announcement earlier this year. Nothing’s changed, and this is our driver line-up for this year and next year. We’re very happy with them and we’re looking forward to working with them in a continued way.”

    Russell himself reiterated his confidence that he would be with the team next year. “I’ll tell you what I said last week, really," he said. "Nothing has changed, it was announced earlier this year, obviously a lot of speculation going around and, as I say, a lot of good drivers on the market. But I’ll be in the seat next year with Williams in 2021, so that’s what I can tell you.”

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    Russell suggested people around Perez had been stoking up uncertainty over his 2021 seat at Williams

    The 22-year-old did, however, admit that speculation over his seat potentially being lost to Perez in 2021 did have an effect on him, but ultimately spurred him on to perform better on track.

    “Obviously it’s always nice to have stability,” continued Russell, “it’s never nice to hear any speculation that your job is potentially up for grabs, but nevertheless, I was confident in what I could perform on track and ultimately I had to do the talking on the track and as Simon said, I was confident nothing would change moving into 2021 even with all speculation going around.

    READ MORE: Russell thrilled with 'best race I've had in F1' after Williams make major strides in Portugal

    “And like I said, a lot of that speculation was fed via other team members or teams surrounding drivers to create these issues over the last couple of weeks. [I'm] definitely happy and I’m pleased to continue on this journey.”

    With his future secure, Russell says he wants to continue on his and Williams’ steady path of improvement in 2021.

    “I think continuous progress [is the goal]. We are realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’ve come from so far behind, I’ve actually been very pleasantly surprised with the progress we have made this year and how we are so much in the fight with Alfa [Romeo] and Haas, and hopefully moving forward next year even closer into the midfield and potentially even battling into the midfield.

    READ MORE: ANALYSIS – Why Alfa Romeo kept Raikkonen and Giovinazzi for 2021 – and what now for Schumacher?

    “My goal is just to keep performing at my absolute best, keep improving, I want to be the best, I want to be fighting for championships and wins in the future and I know I need to keep improving if I want to be doing that,” he concluded.

    Russell is at Imola hoping for his first Formula 1 World Championship point after a solid P14 at Portimao last time.