Melbourne City enjoyed one of their finest A-League wins on Saturday as they destroyed Melbourne Victory 6-0 in the derby.

A run of four defeats in five home games in the top flight ensured Victory were certainly the underdogs coming into the contest, but the one-sided nature of this loss will pile further pressure on head coach Grant Brebner.

City were looking to win back-to-back games against Victory for the first time in A-League history, but a dominant start faltered when Jamie Maclaren missed a penalty after 18 minutes.

Victory held out until nine minutes before the break, when Maclaren steered home following a Nuno Reis corner.

Two goals in four minutes after the break from Florin Berenguer and Rostyn Griffiths put the visitors in charge, and it got worse for Victory in the final quarter of an hour.

Connor Metcalfe struck twice in three minutes, blasting in off the post before tapping in a Maclaren cut-back, before Stefan Colakovski's precise low strike with effectively the last kick of the game triggered boos from the home fans.

Victory ended the match, the 2,000th in the competition's history, without even a shot on target as they stay rooted to the bottom of the table. City are into fourth.

In the earlier game, Sydney FC recovered to draw 1-1 with Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium.

Substitute Bobo scored his first goal of the season for the Sky Blues 71 minutes in after Dylan Wenzel-Halls had put Brisbane ahead.

They remain three points ahead of Sydney in the table, with the reigning champions eighth after winning just three of their opening nine games.

The NBA fined Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell $25,000 after his scathing criticism of officials following his ejection in Wednesday's overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Mitchell stormed off the court and kicked a water cooler towards a security guard after he was tossed from the showdown in Philadelphia, where the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers prevailed 131-123.

Utah's Mitchell picked up two technical fouls in overtime after 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid had forced OT with a game-tying three-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining.

Level at 118-118 at the start of overtime, the 76ers went on to outscore NBA leaders the Jazz 13-5 in the additional period before Mitchell unleashed post-game.

"I'm never ever one to blame a ref, blame an official, but this is getting out of hand," Mitchell, who posted 33 points, said after the game.

"There have been games like this we've one. Games we've lost. We're nice, we don't complain, we don't get frustrated, we fight through things.

"But the fact that we continuously get screwed in a way by this … It's getting f****** ridiculous."

Mitchell was fined for public criticism of officiating and his conduct while exiting the playing court, executive vice-president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe announced.

Jazz team-mate Rudy Gobert was also fined $20,000 for public criticism of officiating.

Gobert was quoted as saying: "Our guys are not able to get calls everybody else in the f****** league gets. We know we are the Utah Jazz, and maybe some people don't want to see us go as far as we can go, but it's disappointing.

"Three times in a row, Mike Conley is going to the rim, and they're grabbing him right in front of the officials, and there's no calls. And on the other end, there are calls that are invisible that are being made."

The last derby was a rare off-day for Atletico Madrid – and for Luis Suarez.

On a run of seven wins in a row and two goals conceded, with no LaLiga defeats all season, Diego Simeone's men were second best in a 2-0 defeat last December. As for Suarez, his 73 minutes on the pitch yielded a single, wayward shot.

Still, that result turned out to be an aberration. Three months on, Atleti head into Sunday's game at the Wanda Metropolitano with a five-point lead over Real Madrid and Barca at the top of the table, and with a game in hand. Suarez, meanwhile, has scored 11 of his 16 LaLiga goals this term since that chastening day at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Suarez's form for Atleti has made a complete mockery of Barca's decision to cast him aside last year, the suggestion the striker was "too old" to be relied upon looking more foolish by the week as he spearheads their charge for a first league title since 2014.

Indeed, given his record against Madrid and the state of the league table, this weekend could be the moment Suarez tips the balance of the title race inexorably in Atletico's favour.

 

OLD HABITS

It wasn't simply being told to leave by Barca that left Suarez so incensed; it was being made to feel he was no longer good enough for "a great team".

"That's what I did not like," he told France Football. "If I hadn't done anything at a club like Barca for three or four seasons, I would have understood.

"But, every year at Barca, I scored more than 20 goals per season. I have always had good statistics, just behind Leo [Messi]."

So he is again. Suarez's 16 goals in 21 league games this term puts him second in the top-scorer standings, three behind Messi. Add in assists, and only his old team-mate (23) has had more direct goal involvements than Suarez (18) in LaLiga this season.

While Suarez is no longer as explosive as he was at Liverpool and in his earlier Barca years, he has lost little of his ruthlessness. Discounting the two penalties he has converted this term, Suarez has scored 14 times from an expected goals value of just 9.6. That differential of 4.4 is the biggest in the division, save for that of 'El Comandante', Levante's 33-year-old star striker Jose Luis Morales (5.0).

It follows that Suarez has a shot conversion rate (including blocked shots) of 23.9, the fourth-highest figure for any LaLiga player with at least 10 goals this season, the best being Roger Marti with 31.3.

The Uruguayan also boasts a big chance conversion rate of 63.2 per cent, having scored 12 out of 19 this term. No player to have scored from at least 10 big chances can match that success rate. That cutting edge in a team that has conceded just 16 league goals in 24 matches is a potent combination.

 

CAN SUAREZ STOP THE DERBY ROT?

Atleti followed December's derby defeat by winning 10 of their next 12 games, the only slip-ups being a Copa del Rey shock at Cornella and a 2-2 home draw with Celta Vigo on February 8 (in which Suarez scored twice).

However, including that result, they have won only twice in their past five league matches, a run that has emboldened Barca and Madrid's title hopes and left fans wondering whether 'Hay Liga' after all.

A dip in form before a derby is never positive, but Atleti in particular need no extra pessimism. They have not won any of the most recent nine league meetings with Madrid, their longest run without a victory under Diego Simeone, and they have not even scored in the previous three. Only once in their history have they gone four league derbies without a goal.

Madrid are also the only team to play a league match at the Wanda Metropolitano without ever losing (one win, two draws), with Simeone having won only 12.5 per cent of league games against opposite number Zinedine Zidane, his worst return against any coach from at least four meetings.

But Suarez has happy memories of facing Los Blancos. Although he's gone two games without scoring against them, his goal record overall reads nine scored in 12 league appearances versus Madrid, the most of any player since his first season in Spain in 2014-15.

What's more, he has an all-important side-kick back in form.

 

JOAO, THAT'S IMPRESSIVE

Joao Felix's sublime strike against Villarreal secured a valuable three points for Atleti last time out and ended his own month-long goal drought. He responded with a stony-faced 'shushing' celebration, to which a delighted Simeone responded: "I love it when players rebel."

Simeone will be desperate to see his €126m man in a similar mood come Sunday. Not only is he Atleti's most exciting individual talent, but he's also the man who has brought the best out of Suarez this season.

Joao Felix has created eight chances for Suarez in LaLiga in 2020-21, more than any other Atleti player. Of his four assists, three have been for the former Ajax man; only Marcos Llorente has provided as many for Atleti's number nine.

Perhaps Suarez has found a kindred spirit in Joao Felix: supremely talented, decisive, and "rebellious". What better double act to deploy in the Atleti's most important LaLiga derby in seven years?

Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic said anything is possible as he weighs up his future during his loan spell at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Jovic re-joined Eintracht on loan until the end of the season, having endured a difficult period at LaLiga champions Madrid.

The 23-year-old Serbia international only scored twice in 32 appearances under Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane in the Spanish capital, where he arrived from Eintracht for €60million in 2019.

Jovic has impressed in his second spell with Eintracht, scoring three goals in eight Bundesliga appearances this term.

Amid speculation Eintracht could sell star Andre Silva to help fund a permanent deal for Jovic, the loanee told Bild: "I will think about my future when the season is over.

"Right now, I only think about Eintracht and I work hard to play in the next matches as best as I can.

"Anything is simply possible, because you never know what will happen in professional football.

"Coming back [on loan] was the right decision because a lot of things fit for me here.

"But, most important is the success of the team. If the team is doing well then that's positive for me.

"Each win for the team is a step forward for me. Of course, I want to play my part and help the team."

 

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said the club must be realistic about their title chances in LaLiga.

Koeman's Barca are second and five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand, through 25 rounds ahead of Saturday's trip to Osasuna.

Barca – into next month's Copa del Rey final as they look to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 – have struggled to convince this season.

While Koeman played down talk of the title, the Dutchman knows Barca have a chance to end the season on a high in the Copa final against Athletic Bilbao on April 17.

"As the coach and the players we have to be more realistic," Koeman told reporters. "We cannot change our minds and opinions about the team's chances to win something all the time.

"We know we have the [Copa del Rey] final and have a chance to win a big trophy in Spain. And depending on the results of the team we can fight for the title.

"We're several points behind Atletico Madrid and we can't lose any more points because then our objective will change and that's difficult.

"Hopefully at the end of the season we can say that, despite some problems, we have done well and that we have won a title. And that would be great."

Barcelona are undefeated in their last 15 games in LaLiga (W12 D3) – the second best current run of any team in the top five European leagues, only behind Premier League leaders Manchester City (19).

Lionel Messi has scored 19 goals in 23 LaLiga appearances this season and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could reach 20 goals in a 13th consecutive campaign in the competition – a record.

Barca captain Messi has scored 23 goals in 19 LaLiga appearances against Osasuna, netting three braces in his last five games against them at El Sadar in the league.

The Utah Jazz's Mike Conley will participate in this weekend's NBA All-Star Game after Devin Booker withdrew due to injury.

Booker had replaced injured Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis for Sunday's game between Team Durant and Team LeBron, but the Phoenix Suns guard has succumbed to a left knee sprain.

It has paved the way for Conley to earn his first All-Star selection as chosen by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, with the 33-year-old Jazz point guard replacing Booker on Team Durant.

Conley is into his 14th NBA season – it is the latest into a career (by seasons played) that a player has ever made his first All-Star team, per Stats Perform.

He will also step in for Booker in the three-point contest, which will take place before the All-Star Game on Sunday.

Conley is averaging 16.1 points and 5.7 assists per game, while he is shooting a career-high 42.2 per cent from three-point range in 29 games this season as the Jazz (27-9) lead the NBA.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics are the Team Durant starters.

The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), with Conley joining that list.

Team LeBron is headlined by Lakers superstar LeBron James, two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.

Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (76ers), Chris Paul (Suns), Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Paul George (Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Jazz).

Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he is feeling "great" and hopes to re-join the team over the weekend following surgery.

Boone had an operation to receive a pacemaker at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday.

The 47-year-old underwent open-heart surgery in 2009.

"I feel great. I can't believe how good I feel," Boone said on Friday.

"It makes me really glad that I got this done because, certainly in the last couple of months, I have not felt anywhere close to how I felt this morning. Really excited about it; excited to get back."

On a return, Boone added: "I can say a couple days in now, me and my new buddy are doing quite well."

"If not tomorrow [Saturday], I'm hoping for Sunday," he continued.

Boone has been Yankees manager since 2018, leading the storied franchise to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) in 2019, while they lost in the AL Division Series (ALDS) last year.

The former third baseman was an All-Star with the Yankees in 2003.

"Now that I've got [the pacemaker] it's made me realise that I wasn't feeling good, just energy level, just not myself. I felt like I had to reach for it every day in a way," Boone said.

"And yesterday [Thursday] and even more so today, I just feel kind of ready to go and ready to kind of tackle things. [My cardiologist] said, 'this will be a pretty straightforward simple procedure, nothing like you've been through in the past. And it'll work right away, you'll notice it.' And he was right. I feel great."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said: "I don't know the exact time of his procedure [Wednesday] afternoon, but in the 7:10pm range, I get a FaceTime. And it's Aaron Boone. I pick up and the energy, how good he looked, the personality was so vibrant. And I'm like, 'Wow.'

"For him to have to go under, have this procedure, and within an hour or so he's back up and running as if nothing really happened at all, it was incredible. I know he's chomping at the bit to get back into that dugout, back into the Yankee uniform. But the greatest thing is that he just feels amazing. The newer version of him, I'm happy for him and happy for his family and happy for us."

The star-studded Yankees will open their 2021 season against American League (AL) East rivals the Toronto Blue Jays on April 1.

Andrey Rublev was pushed hard by Jeremy Chardy on Friday but eventually secured his 18th successive ATP 500 win to set up a semi-final meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rotterdam Open.

Chardy managed to save match points in the second set, as Rublev wobbled at the crucial moment, but the Russian got the job done 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

The pair were on court for just under two hours and 40 minutes and racked up a considerable number of winners, with Rublev's 44 eight more than the Frenchman.

His 18-match winning streak in ATP 500 events has only been bettered on five previous occasions since 2009, all of which were achieved by Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, who holds the record of 28 successive victories.

If he is to get any closer to Federer's remarkable haul, Rublev will have to go beyond Tsitsipas, but Friday's match took plenty out of him.

"I will try to do as much as I can to be ready for [the semi-final]… Stefanos also had two tough matches [this week]," said Rublev.

"He had three sets [on Thursday] and today he had three sets. Now he has to play doubles. It is not easy."

As Rublev alluded to, Tsitsipas certainly did not have it all his own way against another Russian, Karen Khachanov, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Tsitsipas also had to contend with being 3-1 down in the third set – but Rublev knows all about the Greek's ability to come back from the brink having lost to him in last year's ATP Finals despite having match point.

"He [Khachanov] was playing great tennis and I wasn't sure if I would be able to compete," Tsitsipas said after the contest.

"I had an amazing 5-0 lead in the second set and that brought a lot of confidence into my game. We had great rallies and the quality of tennis was excellent. You need to stay as calm as possible in three-setters. I have won a lot in the past and with experience, it gives me an idea of how to play in these tight moments."

Borna Coric and Marton Fucsovics will go head-to-head in the other semi-final.

Croatian Coric came through in straight sets against Kei Nishikori, though it was by no means a straightforward victory as he was pushed to tie-breaks in both sets, winning 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4).

Fucsovics saw off Tommy Paul 6-4 6-3 to reach the last four.

Blake Griffin could be set to swap the team sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings for a potential title contender after reportedly agreeing a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons. 

Stories on Friday of a parting of the ways between the Pistons and Griffin hardly came as a surprise, considering he had not featured for the team in their previous 10 games prior to the All-Star break. 

Both parties had agreed for the 31-year-old to be held off the active roster as the franchise worked towards a solution over his playing future.

With no trade able to be worked out, a settlement has instead been reached with Griffin – whose contract was due to run until the end of the 2021-22 season – that will see him become a much-coveted free agent. 

Now the six-time All-Star waits to see what offers come his way. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers are among those interested.

Griffin had averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 36.5 per cent in his 20 outings for Detroit, who have found wins hard to come by in the 2020-21 campaign. 

Those figures are well down on his career numbers, though. After 642 games, he averages 21.4ppg, as well as 8.7 rebounds and a field goal percentage of 49.5 per cent. The only area of improvement this season has been free-throw success, landing 71 per cent compared to 69.5 per cent overall.

Selected with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Griffin spent his first eight seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers, though his debut campaign was a write-off due to injury. 

However, he was named Rookie of the Year in 2011 after playing in all 82 games, making his first All-Star appearance and also winning the dunk contest. Further injury issues hampered his progress, yet the Clippers still gave him a five-year, $173million contract in July 2017. 

Just six months later, he was traded to the Pistons. Griffin was the leading piece in a six-player deal that also saw Detroit give up protected draft picks to acquire the power forward. 

Blake Griffin could be set to swap the team sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings for a potential title contender after agreeing a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons. 

Stories on Friday of a parting of the ways between the Pistons and Griffin hardly came as a surprise, considering he had not featured for the team in their previous 10 games prior to the All-Star break. 

Both parties agreed for the 31-year-old to be held off the active roster as the franchise worked towards a solution over his playing future.

With no trade able to be worked out, a settlement has instead been reached with Griffin – whose contract was due to run until the end of the 2021-22 season – that will see him become a much-coveted free agent. 

"Blake has been a great representative for our franchise and for the city of Detroit," Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement.

"His work ethic and his approach to the game contributed a lot to our culture. He has been a consummate pro and we wish him continued success. I'm grateful for everything he did for our team and for our community."

Now the six-time All-Star waits to see what offers come his way. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers are among those interested.

Griffin had averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 36.5 per cent in his 20 outings for Detroit, who have found wins hard to come by in the 2020-21 campaign. 

Those figures are well down on his career numbers, though. After 642 games, he averages 21.4ppg, as well as 8.7 rebounds and a field goal percentage of 49.5 per cent. The only area of improvement this season has been free-throw success, landing 71 per cent compared to 69.5 per cent overall.

Selected with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Griffin spent his first eight seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers, though his debut campaign was a write-off due to injury. 

However, he was named Rookie of the Year in 2011 after playing in all 82 games, making his first All-Star appearance and also winning the dunk contest. Further injury issues hampered his progress, yet the Clippers still gave him a five-year, $173million contract in July 2017. 

Just six months later, he was traded to the Pistons. Griffin was the leading piece in a six-player deal that also saw Detroit give up protected draft picks to acquire the power forward. 

Petra Kvitova ended the run of qualifier Jessica Pegula to set up a 2018 final rematch against Garbine Muguruza at the Qatar Open. 

Kvitova saw off Pegula in straight sets, triumphing 6-4 6-4, meaning she will be involved in the final of the tournament for a third time in four years. 

Having twice let slip breaks in the opener, the 2020 runner up edged ahead again at 5-4 before serving out for a 1-0 lead. 

Pegula appeared set to draw level when she raced 3-0 ahead in the next, only to be pegged back by Kvitova, who hit 26 winners and the same number of unforced errors. Victory was eventually sealed after one hour and 18 minutes on court. 

The two-time Wimbledon champion secured the trophy in Doha three years ago by beating Muguruza, who did not even have to hit a ball to progress on Friday after opponent Victoria Azarenka withdrew from their semi-final due to a back injury. 

That title showdown in 2018 went the distance, Kvitova rallying after losing the opening set to eventually prevail. 

"I think it's going to be a tough match," Muguruza said, according to the WTA Tour's official website.  

"We played here in another final three years ago, so just looking forward to playing that match and hopefully getting the trophy." 

The Spaniard has been in impressive form this week, ending Aryna Sabalenka's hopes of defending her crown in the last 16 before thrashing Maria Sakkari in a lopsided quarter-final.

Meanwhile, in Friday's action at the Lyon Open, second seed Fiona Ferro rallied from a set down to beat fellow Frenchwoman Clara Burel and reach the semi-finals. 

Ferro's 2-6 6-1 6-3 triumph means she is certain to break into the top 40 in the world for the first time in her career.  

The only other seed left in the draw is Paula Badosa, the Spaniard knocking out Kristina Mladenovic. Her reward is a last-four clash with qualifier Clara Tauson, conqueror of Camila Giorgi in straight sets. 

George Russell hopes Williams can make a flying start to the Formula One season in Bahrain - but he believes Mercedes are the only team who will be sure they are race-ready.

British driver Russell caught the eye when he replaced Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for one race last year, after the world champion tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the Sakhir Grand Prix.

He went close to winning that race until a pit-stop error and a puncture late on cost him a probable victory, and he then returned to his regular drive at Williams.

Mercedes have assured Russell, who is part of their junior driver programme, that he can have a racing future with them if his development continues as expected.

That could come as soon as next year, but for now Russell's focus is on delivering for Williams.

The team has been in transition following the takeover by Dorilton Capital, and German motorsport veteran Jost Capito was appointed chief executive officer during the close season.

Russell believes Williams, who failed to score a point last season, should be better placed in 2021 to at least improve on that disappointing outcome.

"We want, the bare minimum, to be fighting with the Haas and the Alfas, as we did last year, and closing the gap to that midfield," Williams said.

"We made nine out of 17 Q2 appearances and that is definitely a thrill. That's got to be almost an aim every weekend for myself and team."

The season begins in Bahrain on March 28, and by then there should be evidence of which teams have made progress since 2020, with testing taking place, also in Bahrain, on the March 12-14 long weekend.

Russell admits it is a waiting game to see how rivals have advanced, or regressed.

"Fingers crossed that they go backwards and we go forwards," he said, in an Instagram chat on Formula One's official page. 

"Ultimately, we may go to Bahrain and see every other team has progressed more than us.

"We may go there and see we've made great progress. Until we get to Bahrain not a single team, probably bar Mercedes, can tell you how they're going to perform."

Russell, 23, has been tipped for a big future in the sport. He also believes Williams, a great name from the history of Formula One, can begin a journey back to the top of the sport.

"The arrival of Jost is massive for the team, really exciting," he said. "The future for Williams and everybody here at Grove [the team's headquarters] is really great.

"Unfortunately, things don't change in a matter of moments in Formula One, but the building blocks are really getting set in stone.

"Jost has loads of experience, he's a great character, and I think he's going to bring a lot of motivation to the team."

Russell was speaking on the day F1 chiefs confirmed the Portuguese Grand Prix on the new season's calendar, with the race inked in for May 2.

It will be the second round of 23 in the championship, with Portugal having returned to the Formula One rota last year for the first time since 1996.

Lionel Messi's inspirational form through February has seen the Barcelona captain collect his first Player of the Month award of the season.

February was Messi's most fruitful month of the 2020-21 campaign to date as he scored seven goals, two more than he managed in January.

No player scored more than him, while Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak was the only other individual to net more than four times in the month.

Messi's goalscoring habits helped Barca win four of their five games in the qualifying period, all of which saw him score at least once.

As such, Barca have improved their chances of potentially sparking a genuine title scrap in the final months of the season, with the Blaugrana only five points adrift of the leaders Atletico Madrid.

 

While Diego Simeone's men do still have a game in hand, Los Colchoneros also have the tricky test of a derby clash with Real Madrid to look forward to this weekend.

Messi's commitment to the cause was questioned earlier in the campaign after he rocked the club in pre-season with his transfer request.

He had only scored four times heading into December, when he added a further three – he already has 12 in 2021 and sits atop the 'Pichichi' standings with 19, three clear of nearest rival and friend Luis Suarez.

Messi is only the second Barcelona player to win the award this term, with Ansu Fati – who has missed much of 2020-21 through injury – claiming it for September.

Ronald Koeman's captain saw off competition from Isak, Yassine Bounou, Thibaut Courtois, Alex Berenguer, Nabil Fekir and Jose Luis Morales to win the prize.

George Russell has no intention of "hassling" Mercedes over his future as he focuses on trying to get the most out of a new-look Williams car in 2021.  

The British driver is heading into the final year of his contract with Williams, where he will once again work alongside Nicholas Latifi for the season.  

It will be a third year for Russell with the team, though he did step in to drive for Mercedes - having previously been part of their junior driver programme - at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, replacing Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19. 

His performance in the race - he was in front for the majority before a slow puncture forced him to settle for ninth place - led to speculation over a permanent switch, but Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have remained together.  

While a move could still happen at some stage further down the line, Russell is relaxed over his standing within Mercedes.  

"Mercedes and Toto have always had my back and believed in me from day one. When they believe the time is right, the time will be right," he told Sky Sports at the launch of Williams' FW43B car.  

"I'm not hassling them, I’m just going out there and doing my job on the track. What comes in the future will come.  

"Obviously I had a great opportunity in Bahrain last year, but for now we will focus on the job here at Williams for this season and trying to get the most out of it."

In a somewhat surprising move, Hamilton only agreed to a one-year extension earlier this year, committing him to a ninth season with Mercedes.

Bottas' deal runs "at last until the end of 2021", per the team's statement when the Finn's future was revealed last August, so Russell could potentially be considered to replace either driver in 2022.

"Every driver wants to put themselves against the best," he said when asked if forming a partnership with Hamilton appealed to him.

"I believe in myself and Lewis is the benchmark at the moment, but equally you have a lot of fantastic drivers out there who might not have the same CV as Lewis.  

"Max [Verstappen], Charles [Leclerc], Lewis – they are all on the same level. Putting yourself against one of those three would be great for any driver."

Williams - now owned by Dorilton Capital - unveiled a new blue, white and yellow livery on Friday that takes inspiration from the team's successful cars in the 1980s and 1990s.

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