The sky's the limit for George Russell after the British youngster's stellar performance as Lewis Hamilton's stand-in at the Sakhir Grand Prix, according to Mercedes Formula One team boss Toto Wolff.
The 22-year-old seized his opportunity to shine in Sunday's race in Bahrain and cemented his status as a full-time Mercedes driver in waiting, even if hopes of a stunning victory were cruelly dashed.
"It's not going to be his last attempt to win a race, it's just the beginning of a fairytale that didn't work out today," Wolff told Sky Sports after congratulating and commiserating in equal measure.
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I would say that a new star is born. Lewis is the absolute benchmark, that is what his record says and nobody is anywhere near him. But today we have seen that there is a new generation coming up that can be really strong. They are very young, in their early 20s. The sky is the limit.
Asked if there was any way Russell could start for Mercedes next season, Wolff hinted it could happen one day but not next season.
"He's a Williams driver, he signed up to Williams and our driver line-up is Valtteri and Lewis," Wolff said.
"So I don't see this as a realistic situation at that moment of time. But I can understand that it would be an interesting situation to have been both in the team and maybe a bit of a wild ride for all of us.
"Maybe that will happen in the future."
Esteban Ocon, the 24-year-old Frenchman who was a Mercedes young driver before moving to Renault, finished second in Sunday's race with 22-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll third for Racing Point.
Racing Point's Sergio Perez was a first-time winner at 30 but the grid is full of young talent -- Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc already multiple race winners and still only 23.
McLaren's Lando Norris is 21 -- the same age as Michael Schumacher's son Mick, crowned F2 champion on Sunday and debuting with Haas next year.
AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, another first-time winner this season, is 24.
Additional reporting from Reuters.
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