George Russell has no qualms over his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton possibly leaving
George Russell turns and looks over his left shoulder as he sits on the top floor of the glittering Mercedes motorhome, pointing home.
“There,” he says. “In the quiet end of town.” So on Sunday, on the world’s most famous track lane, King’s Lynn-born Russell will try to become the latest local boy to win the Monaco Grand Prix, although field experience yesterday indicated it will be no easy task. Mercedes was half a second or more back from Max Verstappen.
Russell moved to the Principality over the winter after a year’s delay, so as not to be distracted when he started at Mercedes in early 2022. Since then he has done most things right.
Having finished ahead of neighbor and team-mate Lewis Hamilton last season, he is currently 16 points behind, but he is in close contact with him, as evidenced by four out of five times he qualified faster.
In other words, Russell has proven himself worthy of being considered Hamilton’s heir to the Silver Arrows. One wonders if the news that the older man plans to stay out of his current contract can act as a roadblock?
George Russell (left) is not worried about whether his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton (right) will stay with the team
Russell is aiming for victory in this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix at a circuit he knows well
Russell is used to his surroundings in Monaco after moving to live in the Principality for the winter
“I don’t care if Lewis stays or Lewis goes because I believe I can beat anyone on the grid,” said Russell, 25 and 13 years younger than Hamilton.
Optimism and positivity run through his life and why not? He starts each day by jumping into the Mediterranean Sea. Then it’s the gym, or running or cycling in the sun. Even his regular restaurant is almost on the doorstep. He enjoys the new circle he has found here, far from Norfolk.
“I have more friends here than at home, which is ironic,” he told Mail Sport. He rode with one of them, 37-year-old Welshman Geraint Thomas, favorite to win the Giro d’Italia this weekend.
His boss Toto Wolff also lives in Monaco, as does best friend Alex Albon and a host of other stars of tomorrow’s legendary race, including Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Nyck de Vries and Nico Hulkenburg.
Only one is a true Monegasque, Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari man comes from the kind of garage owner family that caters to the super rich.
Russell is waiting for an invitation to the Grimaldi Palace, but he has met Prince Albert, ruler of the small country that graced his mother Grace Kelly, and they have exchanged numbers.
But it is the car that has caused headaches. Mercedes took the wrong design turn when the regulations were revised last year and has been down the dead end ever since.
Their major upgrade was launched into practice yesterday – new sidepod, front suspension and, most importantly, a redesigned floor, in an effort to master the vortices created under the car that are essential for performance.
Russell recently signed an undisclosed extension with Mercedes
The immediate results were not convincing, as Verstappen led after a difficult earlier session. Leclerc and Sainz finished second and third for Ferrari. Then Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lando Norris, followed by Hamilton, fell half a second off the pace. Russell was only 12th, seven-tenths down.
“Not as close as I had hoped,” Hamilton said. It said a lot. The wider underperformance at Mercedes was the opposite of the high expectations Russell had when he moved from an ailing Williams team to a dominant Mercedes.
But he remains calm and loyal and has quietly signed a contract extension, the details of which are not being disclosed. “You couldn’t choose to be in a better position than to take on Lewis,” argues Russell, always careful to walk the line between respectability and staunch competitiveness.
What a way to test myself. Now that we’re in this position, he’s invaluable to me. There can be no excuses on either side. He pushes me, I push him. I’m here to beat everyone.
“I never doubted myself and the 15 months I was with him have reinforced that. My confidence has grown. We have a good relationship and it would be great if we can turn this around and help the team win. ‘
Russell (R) said learning from the seven-time world champion (L) was invaluable to him
Hamilton (R) has been strongly linked with making a possible switch to Italian garage Ferrari
What, I wonder, surprised him about Hamilton and what lessons did the apprentice learn from the wizard?
“Lewis is very good with people,” says Russell. “He is very caring, he works extremely hard. He enjoys traveling a lot and doing many activities. It wouldn’t be a lifestyle many athletes want.
“I definitely need a way to escape the sport. I spent a few days away during the weekend on a boat for the first time. What I’ve learned from Lewis and seen from other great athletes is that you have to understand yourself and do what’s right for you. You don’t follow someone else’s path, you have to smooth your own.
“It may not be this year or next year that everything falls into place. But look at Fernando, 41 years old. So I have at least 15 good years left in me. You have to be patient, keep working, do your thing, and my time will undoubtedly come.’