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.
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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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