George Russell: “I’m running out of superlatives for Lewis”

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Williams driver George Russell had the opportunity to watch and learn from Lewis Hamilton when he was Mercedes’ reserve driver.

As a Mercedes junior driver Russell was able to learn from statistically the best Formula 1 driver in history. It’s a fact that doesn’t elude the young Briton.

“Personally, I’m running out of superlatives for Lewis,” said Russell on 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.”

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When Russell crashed under a Safety Car at Imola this year, Hamilton offered some word of support on social media, but now George reveals Lewis also approached him personally.

“I spoke to him actually after Imola 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.”

The young Briton also remembered the first time he met Lewis back in 2007.

“The first time I became aware of him was probably back in 2007. 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!”

Many believe Russell is first in line to get a Mercedes seat when it becomes available, but team boss Toto Wolff says it is not a sure thing.

“It all depends how next season goes,” the Austrian told Sky Sports F1.

“Also, in our team our loyalty is highest for the guys in the car because we owe it to them to give them every opportunity.

“But then obviously George is pretty highly rated for the future. He has one of those personality traits that he’s brutal in assessing himself.

“I think this is what the great ones have shown, that they are able to go with that,” concluded Wolff.

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