George Russell sees Mercedes blow as ‘a blessing in disguise’ during quest for F1 title

George Russell 'gutted' to miss out on Sakhir GP victory

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Williams driver George Russell has spoken out about his mental health saying he felt stronger than ever heading into 2021 after seeking professional help, and insists that it was a “great” step in his development as an athlete.

Russell heads into his third and final season as a Williams driver, after which he is a free agent, with a tough few seasons under his belt in Formula One.

Despite being a clear talent on the grid, the Mercedes junior driver failed to score a single point for the Oxford-based team in 2019 and 2020 with the team unable to deliver a decent car for the Brit.

However, one of the biggest opportunities came last season as Russell endured a bittersweet moment with Mercedes, deputising for the Covid-stricken Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

After qualifying second fastest, Russell snatched the lead in the opening stages of the race, overtaking his team-mate, before a pit-stop blunder and a late puncture saw him eventually finish P9.

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But he has vowed to use such disappointment to spur him on in the future, saying such setbacks can be “a blessing in disguise”.

“If I want to win races and championships, I can’t let those difficult moments dwell on me,” explained Russell in an interview with the British newspaper The i.

“I qualified second in the Sakhir Grand Prix. And I was disappointed. My best qualifying position until that point was P12, which I was absolutely ecstatic about, and then I’d just qualified second and I was disappointed.

“And that also taught me that fighting for championships and victories in the future is going to be mentally much tougher than what I had to endure finishing at the back of the grid for the last two years.

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“So those experiences have been a blessing in disguise, I think in the long term, 10, 15 years I’ll look back and I’ll say, ‘I wouldn’t change any of those for the world’.”

Russell’s contract is up for renewal at the end of the season, however he has been tipped to become the next Mercedes driver, if Valtteri Bottas or Lewis Hamilton step away from the team.

Speaking candidly to the newspaper, the 23-year-old addressed the stigma surrounding mental health, specifically in men, and shared why he decided to seek help.

“I think mental health is incredibly important,” he continued.

“I think so many people, men particularly, see psychology as a weakness, which is absolutely not the case. Your mind is the most powerful tool in your body.

“If you have a toothache, you go and see a dentist. If you’ve got something wrong psychologically, you need to speak to a professional about it and they will help you through those moments whether it’s on the business side of things, or whether it’s personal.

“Ultimately I’m a high performing athlete and if you want to achieve your maximum potential, you need to be in the right frame of mind.

“I’m feeling stronger and stronger about this, the more time goes on and since I’ve also had these difficult moments and learnt that talking about it to the right person. Obviously talking to your family and friends is all well and good but getting professional advice was really important.

“That allowed me to come back stronger, fitter, healthier than ever, and [I’ll] be able to perform off the back of it.”

“I was never one of these people who thought mental health is not that important and you’re either mentally strong or mentally weak or whatever and you just got to be strong about it if you’ve ever had a difficult moment, toughen up and get through it.

“You obviously have to, to a certain degree, but equally seeking that professional advice was great. I really enjoyed it and it’s been beneficial for me.”

Formula One heads to Imola next weekend, with the Brit hoping to snatch some points for the team and to build on his P14 finish in Bahrain.

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