Williams’ George Russell has offered praise for seven-time Formula 1 driver’s champion Lewis Hamilton, suggesting he is underappreciated for his amount of hard work.
Equal with Michael Schumacher for the most driver’s titles after his win last Sunday in Turkey, Hamilton has been a constant source of inspiration for Russell, who got a chance to work with his compatriot as a Mercedes junior driver.
“Personally, I’m running out of superlatives for Lewis,” he told the F1 Nation podcast. “I think everybody knows how great he is – even while he was a two-time, three-time world champion. But for me, when I joined Mercedes and saw him working first hand, I knew he wasn’t purely just relying on natural talent.
“He doesn’t just wake up on a Sunday morning and jump in and he’s the fastest. He puts a huge amount of effort in, which I don’t think he really gets the credit for. That grew my respect for him massively. And he works on the smallest of small details, just to excel and get that little bit extra from himself.”
“I spoke to him actually after Imola,” added Russell, “and he gave me some incredibly wise words, sort of ‘here for you if you need’, really. I have learned a lot from him just being in those debriefs, learning what he’s looking for to make the car go quicker and what he’s working on with his driving style, which has actually helped me become a better racing driver over the past 18 months.
“I’ve understood what I need to make my car go faster, and I understood that’s what Lewis was doing. He’s setting the benchmark at the moment: incredible driver, incredible bloke, and just a lot of respect for him.”
At the same time, Russell suggests that not all his experiences with Hamilton have been so positive.
“The first time I became aware of him was probably back in 2007,” he recalled. “I remember he came to [UK karting track] PFI once during his first season in F1. He rocked up in a Mercedes, wearing his McLaren Vodafone race suit and obviously everyone at the track mobbed him, and I got a photo with him. I had a woeful haircut – he’ll probably argue that his haircut at the time wasn’t much better.
“So there is that embarrassing photo out there… which I saw circulating not long ago, so I think for both of our sakes, we’d prefer that to stay away!”