George Russell is said to be the heir to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes Formula 1 throne, but the Williams driver has put that out of his mind as he embarks on his third season in the top flight.
The 23-year-old stated his case for a seat with the F1 World Champions, who back his career, with a stellar performance Sakhir Grand Prix, showing the world he had the goods on a weekend in which he made Valtteri Bottas look ordinary.
Russell jumped into Hamilton’s car with short notice, and after a mere four hours in it he matched and then bettered Bottas in a car he had been driving all season. That day it became a question of ‘when’ Russell will get the call-up, and not ‘if’ he gets it.
But this is not on his mind as he focusses on the season ahead with his backmarker team.
Russell told PA news agency: “My relationship with Mercedes and Toto Wolff is stronger than it has ever been. I will focus on myself and I don’t need to be badgering them.
“In the past I have always tried to make things happen, but it is different now. I have been with Mercedes for six years, they are my second family, and if it happens it will happen naturally.
“It will not be any longer than the summer break (in August) for all parties involved – Mercedes, Williams and for all the drivers – so it is fair on everybody. And unless anything catastrophic happens in the coming six months, Mercedes know the position I am in and the position they are in.
I am getting stronger year-on-year and I believe I am at a level and ready to be fighting for wins and world championships, but we will have to see. Formula 1 is a funny business and I don’t take anything for granted. ”
Asked if Hamilton had spoken to him since that famous night in Bahrain, Russell replied: “No, not at all. We haven’t spoken. My relationship with Lewis is fine. There are no issues.
“I don’t know what I was expecting, and if I was expecting him to say anything after the race. But equally I don’t know how I would feel if someone took my seat at Williams.
“They know the situation. They know I want to be fighting for victories and championships. They saw what I could do in Bahrain.”
The plight of non-pay drivers is worsening each year, as well-heeled sons of billionaires take up valuable seats on a grid. Make no mistake that if Mercedes were not backing Russell (eg. a barter deal for engines) is what keeps him in the seat at Williams.
And only just as there was a stage it appeared he might not even be on the grid.
Russell revealed: “Last season was so intense, especially with how things panned out in the latter half of the year, that mentally it was very draining.
“I started working with a psychologist. I talk to him once every six weeks and it is nice to have someone to offload to. It doesn’t matter if you are a Formula 1 driver, or working from home, we all have our own issues to deal with and there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help. It is beneficial.
“Men see mental health as a weakness but it is absolutely not. It makes you stronger and understand yourself more. There is nothing to be shy about or ashamed of. It is the world we are living in now, with social media which is brutal for everybody.
“You have these superficial people on there, and a lot of people look and think ‘why am I not like that?’ But they are only portraying their very best version of themselves.
“I am just out of that generation. I didn’t join social media until I was 16, but I could not imagine being 10 to 15, growing up and seeing all of this because it affects your self-esteem. If I could, I would get rid of it.
“I have muted all things Formula 1 on social media. I am not reading anything, whether it is about me or not, because I often find it frustrating seeing things that I don’t agree with. It doesn’t bring me anything positive. I am better without it,” declared Russell.