George Russell has already shown he is Lewis Hamilton's heir
George Russell’s meteoric rise has been crowned by joining Mercedes… the man nicknamed ‘Mr Saturday’ oozes confidence and has thrilled so far this season – and he has already shown he is Lewis Hamilton’s heir
- Mercedes this week confirmed George Russell will drive for the team next year
- He will replace Valtteri Bottas alongside seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton
- Russell has had a meteoric rise through the ranks leading to where he is today
- After winning the GP3 and F2 titles he made his debut with Williams in 2019
- In uncompetitive machinery he has out performed his car since he joined
- Russell impressed in his Mercedes cameo and by qualifying second at Spa
The announcement that George Russell will drive for Mercedes in 2022 came as no surprise after his meteoric rise to get to where he is today.
Back in 2017 he put together a PowerPoint presentation just to try and convince Williams of his talents in the pursuit of his dream to be a Formula One driver.
Four years later, the performances he presented on track are all Mercedes needed to see to take the leap of faith and give the 23-year-old a seat alongside Lewis Hamilton in the sport’s leading team over the past seven years.
George Russell’s meteoric rise has been rewarded by taking the Mercedes seat next season
George Russell has outperformed his car and shown that he is a potential future champion
Often with drivers there is a particular moment in their career when you notice there are the makings of something special.
Michael Schumacher qualifying seventh on his debut in a Jordan, Sebastian Vettel’s stunning pole position and victory in the rain at Monza with a mid-field Torro Rosso, or Lewis Hamilton challenging for victories from his very first race back in 2007.
Russell though has had to play a patient game ever since that PowerPoint presentation. He was racing in GP3 when he was told to wait and complete the junior ladder. So he raced in Formula 2 where he beat Lando Norris and Alex Albon to the championship, becoming just the second man to win the GP3 and F2 titles in consecutive seasons after Ferrari’s Charles LeClerc.
He became just the second man to win the GP3 and F2 titles in consecutive seasons
He became a Mercedes junior driver in 2017 and was handed his F1 debut in 2019 with Williams
Since arriving at Williams in 2019, he has continually outperformed his car and picked up the nickname ‘Mr Saturday’ after some stunning qualifying performances in which he has never been beaten by a team-mate.
On Sundays though it has been more difficult in an uncompetitive car which has struggled to get close to points finishes let alone podiums or race victories. The pressure to get his first points finish was telling during his second season at the team.
At the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last year he made what he has described as the ‘biggest mistake of his career’, where he crashed out from 10th place while warming up his tyres behind the safety car. His disappointment was visible as he sat slumped behind the barriers.
But then Hamilton’s positive Covid-19 test meant Russell stepped in for the Sakhir Grand Prix. He was outqualified for the only time in his career by Valtteri Bottas but Russell took the lead at the start of the race and outdrove the experienced Finn.
Wearing boots that were a size too small so his feet could fit on the pedals and with his 1.85m frame crammed into a cockpit designed for Hamilton’s 1.74m height, Russell had his moment where people stood up and took notice.
Russell impressed in a cameo performance for Mercedes at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix
He put himself in position to win the race but missed out on the win through no fault of his own
George Russell’s CV
2014: BRDC Formula 4 – 1st
Formula Renault 2.0 Alps – 4th
2015: FIA Formula 3 European Championship – 6th
Masters of Formula 3 – 2nd
2016: FIA Formula 3 European Championship – 3rd
Macau Grand Prix – 7th
2017: GP3 Series – 1st
2018: F2 Series – 1st
2019: F1 – 20th (0 points)
2020: F1 – 18th (3 points)
2021: F1 – 15th (13 points)
Despite losing a race he twice put himself in position to win through no fault of his own, ultimately he still won given the huge reputational boost he earned. With the full glare of the F1 spotlight upon him, he showed just what Mercedes had hoped to see and demonstrated that they could not ignore his star quality.
The 2021 season didn’t get off to the best start when he was involved in a crash with Bottas at Imola which led to a public dressing down by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. But the fact that Russell had brought what is at most the eighth fastest car into a points position while Bottas was about to be lapped by Hamilton was another statement made.
He finally got a points finish for Williams with an 8th-place finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Then at Spa, he put in the lap of his life to secure a career-best second place in a wet qualifying session – ahead of both Mercedes drivers in a Williams.
Fortune then fell his way on Sunday as heavy rain forced the race to be called off, handing Russell his first career podium.
It was that weekend when Russell sat down with Wolff to be told the news he had patiently waited three years to hear – he was getting the Mercedes seat.
He had left Mercedes with no choice but to displace Bottas, despite the Finn being a great team-player after the struggles they faced with Hamilton’s relationship with prior team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Russell qualified second for the Belgian Grand Prix and took his first career podium
In 2007, Hamilton was the ‘next big thing’ as he stepped into his first season at McLaren alongside two-time champion Fernando Alonso. Hamilton stunned everyone with his pace from day one to finish ahead of the Spaniard in the championship, albeit level on points.
Hamilton now faces the prospect of being on the other foot, with Russell alongside Max Verstappen, LeClerc and Norris seen to be the leaders of the next generation on the current F1 grid.
Russell was born in King’s Lynn and is the youngest of three siblings, with an older brother Benjy, and sister, Cara. He followed his brother into karting at the age of eight and quickly made an impression in the youth ranks.
The Michael Schumacher fan raced and beat the likes of Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll during his karting career. After moving into single seaters in 2014, he became a Mercedes junior in 2017 – an announcement that was delayed by the shock retirement of Rosberg.
Mercedes principal Wolff was first introduced to Russell after receiving a message one night at 10.30pm, with the Austrian then meeting with the youngster two weeks later. His ability and confidence has impressed the likes of Wolff, who has described him as a ‘serial winner’ and Paddy Lowe, who was Williams’ chief technical officer when Russell made his presentation.
Russell will have a big challenge next season alongside seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton
In 2018, Lowe said: ‘The thing about George is for a young guy he’s very confident. He takes the initiative to try to shape his future and I think that’s one of the reasons he’s got to where he has.’
At Mercedes, Russell’s contribution will be vital and if he can get off to a quick start then his partnership with seven-time champion Hamilton could be electric if they are fighting for race wins and victories.
If Russell doesn’t have the pace to beat Hamilton these next two years will still be valuably important for the 23-year-old with the opportunity to work alongside and learn from the most successful driver in Formula One history.
Either way, Russell has shown that he could very well be the heir to Hamilton and lead the Mercedes team to even more glory in the future.
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