George Russell: What did F1 star learn most from Mercedes stint?

George Russell says he's learning in Mercedes

George Russell made his debut for Mercedes in December’s Sakhir Grand Prix. He stepped in for seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who had been ruled out of the race after testing positive for Covid-19. As a member of Mercedes’ young driver programme, many were keen to see how the Williams star would fare.

Russell put in an impressive drive and was in with a chance of winning until a botched pitstop and a late puncture scuppered his chances.

The 22-year-old ended up finishing ninth and recording the fastest lap of the race to secure his first points in F1.

However, his performance was enough to cause speculation of a seat with Mercedes for the coming seasons.

“Halfway into the race, I had an eight-second lead over Valtteri (Bottas) and I thought, ‘this is too good to be true.’ And it turned out it was too good to be true,” Russell said after the race.

“It would have been a fairytale to get the victory – ee did deserve that.

“It was a really well-executed race and one small error changed the whole dynamics.”

Hamilton recovered in time for the season finale in Abu Dhabi as Russell returned to Williams.

What did George Russell learn most from Mercedes stint?

Russell’s time in the Mercedes camp may have been brief but he still picked up some key lessons.

And the thing he learned most, he says, is “to be adaptable”.

“My sort of driving style I did in the Williams actually hurt me slightly in the Mercedes,” he added.

“So when I came back to the Williams and I tried to implement some of the things that I did in that Bahrain race, but I couldn’t do it in the Williams, I think that sort of reinforced to me that you have to be open minded and you have to adapt to whatever the car is giving you.

“So if one guy drives like that in a Mercedes, it doesn’t mean you can drive like that in a Williams, and vice versa.”

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With Bottas already contracted for 2021 and Hamilton expected to sign an extension, Russell’s prospective seat with Mercedes will likely have to wait until the 2022 season.

Asked what he will need to do to secure that drive, Russell said: “I think it’s continuing the form, and continuing the positive attitude internally with the team and externally.

“It’s not getting frustrated with the poor performance here, and continue to try to push Williams further forward.

“I think Mercedes believe in me, they’ve given me the opportunity, and they’ve always had my back.

“Now it’s sort of my duty that I stay true, and that I don’t suddenly change over the course of next year because of certain circumstances, and turn into something that I’m not currently.”

Trevor Carlin, who worked with Russell in F3, expects to see Russell lining up alongside Hamilton in 2022.

“They’re all buttoned up for 2021, once Lewis finalises his contract,” Carlin told Express Sport.

“But I would say for ’22, George is going to be in prime position for one of those seats and it’ll be deserved.

“There’ll be the new regulations so he would be going in equal footing with whoever his team-mate is at the top – probably Lewis.”

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