Current Williams driver and Mercedes junior George Russell says it wouldn’t be easy to compete against Lewis Hamilton if he became his team-mate.
Russell has been a Mercedes junior driver since 2017, so it’s no wonder his name has been brought up numerous times when Mercedes’ driver line-up became a subject of speculation.
However it has recently been announced that the Briton will stay with Williams for 2021. On the Beyond the Grid podcast Russell was asked about potentially partnering Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
“Being put in the car next to one of the best drivers ever, who’s been in the same car, the same team for seven years, the same engineers – it would have been a tall order,” said the Briton.
“I’ve got confidence and faith in myself [but] who knows how that would have gone.
“I’ve got full confidence in Mercedes that they are fully supporting me, they’ve made that clear from day one.
“Obviously a lot of people can think what they want following recent decisions but… nothing has changed in my relationship with Toto [Wolff], with the guys at Mercedes.
“Me and Toto had a long socially distant breakfast together last week, a couple of hours talking about everything, and like I say, I’ve got full faith in everybody there that I’m in their minds, and as long as I perform, they will hopefully give me an opportunity.”
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But how did Russell’s position as a Mercedes junior driver come about? The Briton explains.
“I’d actually been unofficially the reserve driver for BMW in DTM. I did a rookie test with them and that went incredibly well, and I was on the verge of signing a full-time race seat deal with them in the DTM [for 2017].
“By this point, I’d sort of accepted I didn’t have any backing to help me get to Formula 1. At the time, none of the Formula 1 teams were overly interested and I was pretty settled to say, this is DTM, it was a huge salary, it’s probably the next best thing to Formula 1 and I was committed to going down that route.
“One day I was just laying in the bath and I got a phone call from a French guy called Gwen Lagrue… He said to me, ‘Hi George… I’ve just started working with Mercedes and you’re the first guy I want to sign.’
“And that’s where it started, in the bath back in 2016! The conversations were ongoing, I signed a contract that started in 2016, and officially became a driver at the start of 2017,” concluded the Briton.