George Russell will partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes from 2022. The young Brit has long been highly rated by the team. Russell joined Williams in 2019 having won the 2018 Formula 2 championship. Russell’s incredible performances with Williams proved his skill, leaving Mercedes no choice but to sign him for 2022.
Russell admits, in an exclusive interview with crash.net, he embraced the challenge of battling at the lower end of the field with Williams.
“It didn’t take that long [to adapt to] because I had the mindset that ‘this is what we’ve got, there’s nothing I can do about it’,” Russell said.
“I’m not going to focus on something I can’t change and I’m going to make the most of this difficult situation. I think that made me stronger.”
Despite helping the team improve year on year, from the slowest team on the grid, to P8 and a shock podium in the controversial Belgian Grand Prix, Russell admits his hunger for race victories continues to drive him forward.
“Obviously I want to be a winner, I want to be a world champion and we spent the whole time at the back of the grid.
“2020 was a stronger year but it wasn’t enough for us. 2021 was a stronger year but it was never enough.
“When I got into Q2 for the first time, we celebrated a lot. When you do that a second and a third time, that wears off, you want to get to Q3. When you are in Q3, we celebrated a lot and we were excited. But then you want to be in Q3 at every other event, or every event. Until you are world champion, it’s never enough.
“For me, obviously, if you were to give me a choice; would I prefer to be last or P10, I would say P10. But it’s not a linear progression. I’m still learning my trade and if I’m P10, I’m still not world champion, so I’m not overly fussed.”
The 23-year-old continued to highlight his appreciation for the low pressure environment at Williams, in which he could improve without the spotlight of the media.
“I’m more grateful to have been able to learn my trade, a bit under the radar, and being prepared as much as possible for when I do have a car that hopefully can help me achieve what I want to achieve.”
Russell went on to discuss the lessons he learned from disappointment in the sport. From his calamitous ending to a near perfect weekend with Mercedes in Sakhir, to his several near misses with Williams in which he narrowly missed out on a maidenpoints finish.
“It wasn’t just the Mercedes experience,” he claimed, “but there were other experiences as well, and dealing with and bouncing back from disappointment is part of life and part of competitive sport,
“You know a championship isn’t won or lost in one race, it’s won over the course of a season. You will always have disappointing race weekends, you’ll have failures, you’ll have success. But if you don’t bounce back from those disappointments, you are only going to compromise yourself and your team for the remaining races.”
When asked if these disappointments helped him in his development, the Briton replied “Absolutely.”
“I think people who have it easy throughout their career, throughout their life, when they do face these disappointments, they struggle to deal with it, and probably aren’t able to bounce back as quickly.
"And that’s why I’m grateful that I’ve been in this position on a number of occasions, to make me more resilient. I would have loved to have won that race [Sakhir 2020], but that’s not what I want my career to be remembered by.
“I want to be the most complete driver possible and I want to look back in 20 years time and say ‘that was an incredibly strong career, every single outcome had a reason behind it and that made me a stronger driver’. I believe that race in Bahrain, losing that victory, will make me a stronger driver.
“In a way, it would have been too much of a fairytale to have won and I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the achievement if that had happened.”