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“George Russell: The Art of Winning – In Spite of Losing”

December 8, 2020

George Russell may not have won the Sakhir Grand Prix on Sunday, but his efforts in replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes may have formerly confirmed his potential.

It may have also gone a great distance to settling his driver from 2022 onward.

“Very quick, very tidy. Great potential.” As the 2015 European Formula 3 season got underway, that was my quick assessment of a then 17-year-old George Russell – before taking a race win in his first weekend in the category.

Admittedly, it was something of a false dawn {note 1}, but the potential was clear and following stints in GP3 and Formula 2, there was no surprise to see the Mercedes junior promoted to a Williams F1 seat last year.

So far in his F1 career, Russell has had two comparatively weak teammates in Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi, but his performances in the difficult FW42 and FW43 cars have been startling, but as with all great talents, a single turn was needed to genuinely propel Russell to the top.

It is genuinely unfortunate that Mercedes team leader Lewis Hamilton fell afoul of Coronavirus, but with the champion sidelined, the German squad offered Russell a significant opportunity that only a fool or the meek conservative would have turned down.

He displayed some potential during Friday’s free practice sessions, before Max Verstappen’s Red Bull briefly assumed the top spot at the close of FP3 and while Valtteri Bottas may have secured pole position in the second Mercedes, Russell’s charge to the lead at the race start not only signalled his intent for the Grand Prix, but also for 2022. That he brilliantly repeated that feat during a late race restart merely cemented his intentions.

What an incredible shame it was that a late race puncture stole the race victory from his grasp. Come the end of 87 laps, a recovery to 9th place would secure Russell’s first ever points in Formula One, but it was not the 25 he so dearly desired.
But tongues are now wagging. Mercedes are looking at a future beyond Hamilton and that future is not Bottas. For all his worth, Bottas’ reputation in recent seasons has been downgraded and where once it was believed he may push Hamilton very hard – and at times he has – Hamilton has merely extended himself further still, ensuring Bottas’ inter-team successes are rare.

As needs must, Russell must wait. Bottas signed on for 2021 several months back and while negotiations with Hamilton are still ongoing, the seven-time champion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So – unless there is some additional drama in the next few days – Russell will return to Williams and to the less stable FW43 machine and he will once again beat Latifi into submission.

Russell’s stock has raised significantly now and should another year with Williams be the price to pay for a top Mercedes seat in 2022, then it is critical that those around him work hard to keep his head in check and cap any frustrations that may inevitably come to the fore. From here on in, Russell’s biggest battle may be with himself.

{note 1}
Russell finished 6th in the standings in 2015 but did not manage to win again that season.

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