Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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George Russell is gearing up for the biggest challenge of his career as he partners Lewis Hamilton next season, yet the Briton says he’s ready for the challenge, admitting it could even be a bit “easier” than his time at Williams. After months of speculation earlier in the year, it was finally announced ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix that Russell would be making the move to Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn has spent the past five seasons playing second fiddle to Hamilton but Mercedes have switched things up with Russell seen as the team’s future.
In an underperforming Williams, Russell impressed over the first half of the season. Scoring his first points in Hungary, he then went on a stunning run of form by qualifying on the front row at the rain-hit Belgian Grand Prix, just a week after receiving the call from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
The 23-year-old also impressed in Russia after qualifying third in Sochi, knowing his fate was now set at Mercedes next season.
And Russell now has his eyes set on beating seven-time world champion Hamilton in 2022.
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“I think I’m pretty grateful for the difficulties that I’ve faced on the track throughout these years because quite often when you get in a faster car and a car that is more complete, things just naturally feel easier,” Russell said.
“For us, we’ve had so many limitations, whether it’s been trying to get the tyres in the right window, the brakes in the right window, following other cars has been incredibly difficult really fighting and battling to hold on for positions.
“When a car is faster, often everything seems good. The strategy is always good if the car is fast. You start becoming luckier. These things start falling your way and I think, I feel, more of a rounded driver because of this.
“I often talk with my trainer about building this toolbox of experience and knowledge that I’m sure, throughout my Formula One career, I’m never going to have a car that’s the quickest year after year or the best year after year.
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“But, if I do have a car that’s very difficult to drive, I’ve had these experiences that I can just go back into the toolbox and remember what I experienced prior to 2019 or these last few years.
“So, I feel pretty fortunate to have had this.”
Russell initially sent ripples through the paddock when he stepped in for a Covid-stricken Hamilton at the end of 2020 at the Sakhir Grand Prix and drove brilliantly.
Speaking to ESPN earlier in the year Russell praised boss Wolff for entrusting him with the seat and mentoring him throughout the years.
“Toto has always been there [for me in my career],” he added. “He’s always a phone call away to talk to and he has always given me really good advice and pushed me and been hard on me in certain moments, but patted me on the back when the result has been good.
“As a team they have been so great to me, which is why now I feel so appreciative of the opportunity and why I am going to go that extra mile to try and repay me for the faith they put in me over these past few years.”
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