George Russell has an illustrious admirer among his fans, none other than Juan Pablo Montoya who only has good things to say about the Mercedes driver.
No surprise there because Russell is special and has been a hot property since he burst into motor racing, champion in everything he entered and spotted early on by Mercedes as a future talent.
That future is now here, after two seasons with lowly Williams, funded by Mercedes, Russell has been promoted to the Silver Arrows alongside seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
While Russell was accustomed to life at the back of the grid for two years, doing things in the Williams that brought back memories of the great Ayrton Senna, with Toleman in his F1 rookie season back in 1984.
In stark contrast, Hamilton made his 2007 F1 debut with McLaren, a winning team at the time and their British rookie a title contender to the last race. In fact, Lewis has won a race in every season since he began his magnificent journey through the top flight.
But this year that record is set to end unless Mercedes can work magic on the problematic W13; and this is not media speak but what Hamilton himself admitted to reporters during the Imola weekend. He is not a contender.
Hamilton’s struggles are in the spotlight because he is who he is, in the shadows though Russell is absorbing everything, going about his business by ticking every box. He is the heir to Hamilton’s Mercedes throne, at 24 he has time to be patient and learn from one of the greatest teammates he is likely to partner up with..
Speaking to VegasInsider, Miami Grand Prix ambassador Montoya said of Russell and Hamilton’s looming crisis: “George was fighting in traffic for the last two seasons at Williams and Lewis was cruising up in front – that makes a difference
“Lewis is struggling and people are like: it really shows it was just the car, look how good is George. I’m a big fan of George, I really like Lewis as well.
“I think the biggest difference is that you got to remember, George was with Williams so, he’s been in the melee every weekend. Like he is ‘traffic, traffic’ and racing people all day.
“And Lewis, the last seven-eight seasons, he’s been cruising by himself every weekend. He hasn’t really raced people because when he gets to lap them, everybody needs to get out of the way.
“All of a sudden he’s stuck in traffic and it doesn’t matter how good you are, if you don’t practice it, it’s hard. Somebody who’s been doing it all his life, it doesn’t mean he’s worse, it’s just going to take him more time to figure it out” reasoned the 46-year-old Columbian.
Montoya: I think Lewis is not as comfortable and I think the car is doing a lot of different things
The former F1 driver continued: “I think Lewis is at a point that if the car doesn’t drive really, really good, I mean when you’re younger, and I’ve been through it, when you’re younger, you’ll drive it however it is and you think it’s okay. As you get older and wiser, you go: uh, it’s not driving well, there’s no point.
“I think you always want to drive the wheels out of the car but a guy like Lewis that has been used to winning every year, and championships, I think, for him to qualify 10th or 12th, it’s kind of the same thing.”
“Give him a winning car and you’ll see how different he’s gonna behave. I know Lewis doesn’t want to get his ass kicked every week by George. George looks a lot more comfortable and is pushing, and he’s got a point to prove.
“Whereas Lewis doesn’t really need to prove anything. He is really focused on making the car better and is just really uncomfortable in the car. Did he forget how to drive? No, that doesn’t happen. You don’t forget overnight. He’s just not happy with the car.”
Mercedes took a gamble on an innovative aero package for the 2022 new F1 rules, but they messed up the math as the Mercedes W13 is arguably the worst car Hamilton has ever driven, but for Russell a big step up from the Williams shitboxes he drove.
Montoya said of the latest Silver Arrow: “It looks awful. I think they’ve given up a lot of pace because they need to run the car really high, for the porpoising. You see how bad at the end of the straights that car bounces!
“It’s like the driver is going like that (bobs head) and you’re trying to figure out where is the braking zone. I’ve been through it. It’s a nightmare.”
“It hurts the car, the gearbox, everything takes a beating. They’ve just given up a lot of pace just to make it survive the races.
“Once they figure it out, the whole grid is going to flip upside down, it’s going to change a lot,” explained Montoya, a seven-time Grand Prix winner as well as 1999 Champ Car champion and two times Indy 500 winner, in 2000 and 2015.