Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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George Russell feels he spent a year too long at Williams in his apprenticeship to become Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes. Russell has been affiliated with Mercedes ever since he reached out to the Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff back in 2014 after winning the BRDC British Formula 4 championship.
The young Brit went on to win both the GP3 and Formula 2 titles on his way to Formula One before making the step up under the watchful eye of Wolff.
In 2020, Russell sent ripples through the paddock when he stepped in for a Covid-stricken Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix, and very nearly won on debut had it not been for a poor pit-stop and a puncture.
Undeterred the next season back at Williams, Russell was left in tears after scoring his first points for the team in Hungary.
The 23-year-old 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 Wolff that he would be replacing Valtteri Bottas at the team.
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He also impressed in Russia after qualifying third in Sochi, knowing his fate was now set at Mercedes next season.
But the Briton believed he was ready to fledge the nest far earlier than he has, but contractually was locked in at Williams.
“You’re always learning,” said Russell during an interview with Motorsport-Magazin.com.
“Your natural speed is what it is. It’s not going to get any better. It’s how do I get more out of my engineers, how do I set up the car better, how do I manage the tyres on a cold day in Brazil?
“After year one [at Williams], I would have felt ready. But I’m a better driver now than I was then.
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“Two years would have been perfect. This year, I would have been more than ready to move up.
“[But] we signed for three years. There was absolutely nothing we could do.”
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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