George Russell has warned the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen that he will only need a couple of races to get to grips with his new Mercedes car before he is able to perform at his very best on a consistent basis. The 24-year-old was drafted in by the Silver Arrows to replace Valtteri Bottas at the end of last year and secured a career-best finish of fourth place at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
Russell hardly put a foot wrong in his first outing as a full-time Mercedes driver in spite of a disappointing performance in qualifying on Saturday, in which he only managed to claim ninth place on the starting grid. He quickly made his way up the order and spent much of the race directly behind Hamilton before moving up to fourth place when the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were forced to retire in the closing laps.
The man from King’s Lynn, who previously filled in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix back in 2020, has gained a reputation as one of F1’s brightest young talents after spending three years honing his craft at Williams before he was called up by Mercedes. Russell is adamant that he will be able to challenge his new team-mate and maybe even trouble the likes of Verstappen in the near future when he gets used to his new surroundings after his first couple of races for the Silver Arrows.
“I’ve been racing for 17 years, and 14 of those I was at the front,” Russell told GQ in a wide-ranging interview. “I think as soon as I’ve got a race or two under my belt, I’ll be back to normal.”
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Russell will be desperate for Mercedes to provide him with a car that is quick enough to challenge for Grand Prix victories in order to make the most of his race-winning potential before the end of the season. The German outfit have endured a turbulent start to the new campaign after struggling in pre-season testing and look to be adrift of Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of outright performance at this early stage of proceedings.
It seems as though Russell has not been left disheartened by the situation, though, with the Brit going on to insist that his target of winning his maiden Drivers’ Championship title in the near future remains unchanged. He also touched on his working relationship with Hamilton, who he respects but is also fully aware that he needs to beat in order to realise his life’s dream of securing F1 glory over the coming years.
“The fact is, Lewis and I have a good relationship,” added Russell. “They’ll twist my words slightly to blurb a headline, such as me trying to take Lewis’ crown away or whatever, but I don’t feel like that.
“I’m in F1 because I want to be world champion, that’s obvious. And if I’m going to be world champion, I’ve got to beat everyone, Lewis included.”
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