Williams F1 driver George Russell is one of the greatest hopes for young Mercedes drivers in Formula 1 – The Briton made his debut season with the historic British team in 2019.
Despite a mixed year with zero points, Mercedes continues to stick with its rookie, indeed it appears rather obvious that Mercedes and Toto Wolff have maneuvered out of the picture Esteban Ocon to Renault in order to ensure Russell gets his chance at Mercedes.
Russell has been a member of the Mercedes junior squad since 2017, he has won the title in GP3 and Formula 2 and is one of the most promising talents.
Although he was hardly able to show off his skills in the vastly inferior F1 car that was the Williams FW42, with performances such as in the Hungarian qualifying he gave a first taste of what he could do.
In his qualifying sessions, the Briton even managed a perfect record, winning all his duels against Robert Kubica. Admittedly, Kubica is hardly the force he once was in a Formula 1 car after the terrible accident all those years ago, but equally the Pole is no pushover.
Russell is also encouraged by the fact that there was no criticism of his performance from Mercedes.
“At Mercedes, things always go so well that they wouldn’t tell me if I was doing a good job.”
“They only say something when I’m not doing a good job,” Russell adds. So in that sense, no comments at all are proof that his debut year couldn’t have been too bad.
The German manufacturer has been pursuing this philosophy for years, the British driver explains – When Russell won the GP3 title, he received calls with congratulations.
“But right after that, we talked about moving up into Formula 2 and driving FP1 sessions with Force India. So I thought, ‘Now I’ve just won the championship, of course I want to celebrate now!’ ”
He also wasted little time in Formula 2 and won the title right away, which earned him his engagement at Williams – thanks to Mercedes’ support.
“They believe in me and my potential.” He says that he’s only really comfortable with this way of thinking himself, because he’s paid to deliver top performance.
“Just because a mailman delivers his mail on time doesn’t mean he gets a pat on the back. It’s just his job…
“I should only get a slap on the wrist if I don’t deliver on time. That’s just the way we think.” says the youngster in a rather pro athlete fashion.
Although extraordinary performances are also honoured, everyone in a Formula 1 team tries to give their best – from the chef, to the aerodynamics and the strategists, Russell acknowledges. “That’s the way it works in our world.”
Every week he is in contact with Mercedes. “They are pleased with my performance at the moment,” he says proudly. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has already stated that Russell “absolutely sure” has all the qualities to get a Mercedes regular cockpit in the future.
The 21-year-old was able to further demonstrate his skills at the Abu Dhabi test after the season finale. The main aim was to gain experience. A door to the top team could soon open for Russell, as both Lewis Hamilton’s and Valtteri Bottas’ contracts expire at the end of 2020.
Although Russell himself signed a three-year contract with Williams in 2019, there is every likelihood he could move over to the factory Mercedes team sooner as William’s have a rich history of driver’s breaking contracts. Jenson Button being one of several over the decades.
“It is a great honor to be part of the Mercedes family. It’s also an honor to be one of two junior drivers here, besides Esteban [Ocon].
“One day I might get the chance to be in the top team, besides Mercedes is very influential in Formula 1.” concludes Russell.
In 2021 four teams will drive with Mercedes engines. In addition to the top team, Williams, Racing Point and McLaren will be supplied.