George Russell on his Mercedes chance: 'It's no secret, I just want to win'


Four years as Mercedes junior, three with Williams, now George Russell is ready to step up to the top table with Mercedes – and he's unequivocal in his aim

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images)

After years as a Mercedes junior, Russell is ready to grab his big chance

Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images

Formula 1’s worst kept secret was finally confirmed today with news George Russell will join Mercedes next year, alongside seven-time World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, for the Silver Arrows’ first-ever all-British line-up.

And while it’s no doubt a dream pairing, with the Mercedes protégé against the brand’s top gun, it could still end-up a nightmare for the squad to manage (à la Hamilton, and Nico Rosberg) – with Russell cut from the same cold, unyielding steel as his countryman, and neither interested in being number two.

“The clear goal is to become a Formula 1 World Champion,” said the 23-year-old, exclusively to Motor Sport, ahead of the contract announcement.

“[To do that] I want to make sure I’m the best version of myself physically, as a racing driver, off-circuit as well, and how I work with the team.

“It’s so important, because all of these things have to be aligned to excel on the circuit. And I recognise you need that team, that you’re just another cog in this massive chain that makes the success, and you’ve got to work at it.”


Russell has been “driving my heart out” at Williams for three seasons

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Russell has already had a taste of blood, too, having put the sword to his then-Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas as a one-off stand-in for a Covid-affected Hamilton at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

There, Russell’s maiden win went begging due to a botched pit stop and Pirelli puncture. But, his future was sealed after he qualified on the front row, within 0.026sec of Bottas, despite never before driving the W11, and then passed him twice in the 87-lap race including off the line into Turn One.

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“I think the feeling [at Sakhir’s Outer Track] was I want to fight for victories; I want to fight for pole positions. And in a way it felt quite natural,” he said.

“Weirdly, when I came off the line, I was leading the race, and it didn’t even cross my mind I was leading a Formula 1 race. It brought me back to my junior days when I was fighting for victories every single weekend.”

“I think as a race driver, when you put your helmet on, you’ve just got to go as fast as possible, overtake anyone who is in front, and try to defend from anyone who is behind. I guess only afterwards I recognised that was quite surreal, that we came in at such a last minute, and that I did a pretty respectable job. So, it’s no secret, I just want to win.”

Russell feels confident in replacing Bottas, who is heading to Alfa Romeo from next season on a multi-year-deal, with the Brit having seen Hamilton up-close – from the inside – as a Mercedes protégé since 2016.

“I’d say the biggest thing I’ve learnt from my days when I was a junior driver at Mercedes is just seeing Lewis not solely relying on natural talent,” Russell said.

Mercedes' British driver George Russell drives during the Sakhir Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in the city of Sakhir on December 6, 2020. (Photo by HAMAD I MOHAMMED / POOL / AFP) (Photo by HAMAD I MOHAMMED/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The man from King’s Lynn made short work of Valtteri Bottas on his one Mercedes appearance thus far


“He was one of the first into the [Formula 1] paddock, one of the last to leave, [his] work on every single detail with his team to make him better, to make the car better, and to make the lap times faster.

“There’s this big perception from the outside that he just rocks up, jumps in the car and flies around. But, it really isn’t the case. He’s got an immense amount of natural talent, but he works incredibly hard to achieve even more.”

The 23-year-old from King’s Lynn in Norfolk isn’t afraid of hard work having spent the last three seasons “driving his heart out” at Williams – where he’s not just united the squad, but wrung the car’s neck for top results like his stunning Q3 lap at a sodden Belgium that led to a maiden podium.

“I entered Formula 1 with lots of confidence, having won GP3 and Formula 2, but when I got to [the top] I recognised every single driver was a champion at some point in their career and this is the best of the best,” he said.

“And just because I’ve won F2 and GP3 doesn’t mean I am going to come here and have an easy time. I think the difficulties of 2019 reinforced that view that Formula 1 is not easy. You have to go the extra mile to do something. And I think that has consistently motivated me these past three years.”

Looking ahead, though, Russell knows there’s no point in getting caught-up worrying whether Mercedes could be toppled in F1’s brave new era – instead keeping faith in the squad’s strength, and the ultimate aim of the regulations.


A second in qualifying at Spa was converted into a podium – Russell is anticipating fighting at the sharp end on a much regular basis

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“I’m sure there will be surprises when we hit the ground at the first test or first race. But, it’s about how you deal with that difficulty and that change,” he said.

“Obviously the regulations have been so stable for the past few years, but [I’m] almost entering with an open mind and trying to just improve from there.

“It’s definitely a really exciting time for Formula 1. I think everyone wants improved competition and it would be amazing to see every single team capable of winning races. That would be the dream, to put the emphasis on the drivers to go out and make the difference.”