He’s only nine races into his F1 career but all the signs suggest that George Russell could be someone very special and a future star of the sport: along with the likes of Leclerc, Verstappen and Norris.
Impressive record in the lower categories
If you don’t follow the lower categories, you won’t know about Russell’s impressive performances in GP3 (2017) and F2 (2018).
In GP3, he dominated the championship and won it by a massive 79 points from Jack Aitken. Apart from Hungary where he failed to score a single point across the feature and sprint races, the Brit finished in the top 6 of every other race that season. An impressive level of consistency with four wins thrown into the mix.
F2 was a much closer fight for the vast majority of last year – but Russell claimed the title nonetheless. He beat fellow 2019 F1 rookies Lando Norris and Alex Albon to the championship by 68 and 75 points respectively.
His most impressive victory came at Baku when he stormed through from P12 on the grid to take a sensational win in the sprint race – and it really ignited his championship hopes too.
Russell took the championship lead at the halfway point in Austria and never looked back from there to seal a second consecutive championship.
Leaves a good mark after F1 practice session debut in 2017
The young Brit also took part in two FP1 sessions with Force India in Brazil and Abu Dhabi at the end of 2017. He was 0.6s and 0.9s behind Ocon and Perez respectively in those sessions. Considering he had only tested an F1 car for a single day before those practice appearances, it was a very good effort. At the time, Force India’s Otmar Szafnauer was ‘’very impressed’’ by Russell’s performances.
Doing all the right things at Williams
It’s been an incredibly difficult start to life in F1 for George Russell because of Williams’ shortcomings with their 2019 package. They’re well off the pace of the midfield teams and have been comfortably the slowest cars at each event to this point. Russell has done a superb job in extremely difficult circumstances, however.
On the track, he leads team-mate Robert Kubica 9-0 in the qualifying head-to-head battle. The best of those efforts was probably in Spain: he was +1.182s quicker than his Polish stablemate in Q1.
The story is pretty similar in races. Only in France did Russell finish behind Kubica – and that was thanks to an unscheduled stop in the closing stages because of a front wing problem for the Brit.
Just like qualifying, he’s put in some sublime drives on a Sunday. Russell finished over a minute ahead of Kubica in Austria 8 days ago – and that included him starting from the pitlane. That’s quite a remarkable gap between team-mates and shows how well the 21-year-old is driving. He’s giving it absolutely everything despite having not much to work with.
When he’s had very rare opportunities to fight with drivers from other teams, he’s been impressive. A lovely double overtake on Kubica and Kvyat in Austria is certainly one big highlight from his season so far.
It also would be easy for a young driver to publicly criticise the team for underperforming so badly, but Russell’s shown great maturity and has been galvanising the team instead. He said after Austria that “We’re obviously still a long way behind but there are some positives to take… We need to be patient now and wait for some downforce to come to the car." The young Brit has got an extremely wise head on young shoulders. You can be sure the top teams will notice that – as well as his extremely promising talent in the car.
Could he be the man to replace Bottas and be Mercedes’ future number one?
Understandably, most people will think Esteban Ocon is the man who will step into the Mercedes if they decide to replace Valtteri Bottas in the near future. Yet, George Russell might be the man who gets the drive.
A seriously great record in junior formulae, plus the speed and maturity he’s shown this season surely means he’s in contention for a coveted seat at Mercedes. In fact, he might be the man to lead the team when Hamilton decides to retire.
Russell looks well capable of fighting the other young superstars in the sport for wins and titles in the 2020s – and he’s certainly doing all the right things to impress Mercedes and the other top teams this year.
With Ocon on their books as well, Mercedes are facing an interesting dilemma with their driver line-up in the years to come.