British driver George Russell is defined by a single word: consistency.
Since his childhood emergence in karts until this 2022, the year in which he celebrates his fourth season in Formula 1, he has stood out for remaining firm in his purposes, despite how difficult they have been for him.
And more so in a sport in which joy is usually a few tenths away from frustration.
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In 2019, during his rookie season in motorsport’s top flight, aboard Williams’ FW42, the slowest car of the year, Russell came up empty. The last place in the World Cup was explained forcefully: it was the only pilot who had not added a single point.
The following year, in the midst of another difficult season, the penultimate Grand Prix, that of Sakhir, presented itself as a halo of hope. Lewis Hamilton, the pilot who he considered a “superhero” in his childhood, and who had encouraged him to persist in his dream, contracted covid-19.
Mercedes wanted Russell, who had been part of its young driver program, to replace him. And, sitting in the powerful W11, at the age of 22, a diamond whose brilliance was beginning to be questioned, he managed to score his first points in F-1.
‘Russell gives the measure of the Mercedes’then synthesized ‘El País’.
In 2021, back to reality, Russell had to endure another eleven races to score points for the first time at Williams, his team. And in number twelve, the Belgian Grand Prix, remembered as the shortest in the history of the category, as it only lasted two laps behind the safety car in the middle of heavy rain, he managed to get his first podium, by arrive second, as it had been in the classification.
“It doesn’t matter (…) it’s an amazing result,” concluded the Briton, relieved amid how unusual the situation seemed.
Days later, the reward for his resistance: Mercedes announced that he would be Hamilton’s partner for 2022. And although he arrived at the leading team of the hybrid era, he had to start a season in which the silver arrows have not been sharpened.
In the midst of the difficulties of the German team due to the pouring and its coupling to the new regulations, Russell, its second driver, has managed to lead the year for the team.
One pole, six podium finishes and fifteen races finishing in the top five make him the most consistent, despite not having won one yet. That, the current third man in the classification tells EL TIEMPO, is the challenge that remains this year: finishing second in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
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George Russell, third in the World Championship, with six races to go, in his first year with Mercedes…
wow! Before the season started, the truth is that we did not have any specific expectations. The idea has always been to have fun, but in a champion team of course you have to go out and fight for several wins in races and win the World Cup. But this year, With so many rule changes, we knew we had to start with an ‘open mind’. Even so, my goals have always been ambitious…
In the fifteen races he has finished, he has done so in the top five places. How do you explain that regularity?
Honestly, it’s hard to give a specific answer to my consistency. I think it was decisive to maximize all the opportunities to score points, that’s why I was able to finish at the top in all the races. And that there have been a couple in which I feel that perhaps we could have been in a better position, if certain unforeseen events had not occurred…
I think of Silverstone, Zhou’s accident and abandonment…
For example, that was the one that left me the most disappointed. For that opportunity we could have achieved the first victory. Our car was more competitive than ever. I was clear that it was our day, but well, what happened happened and there is nothing to do. Luckily, Guan finished well and things didn’t go too far. In some way, we have to thank for how the season has gone.
Russell immediately got out of his car after the accident at the exit of Silverstone. The only important thing was to check that Guanyu Zhou was alright.
A gesture of pure sportsmanship ❤ pic.twitter.com/CRekoaWBDC
— DAZN Spain (@DAZN_ES) July 3, 2022
And if you look back, the three years he was with Williams were of major headaches…
I think that experience has taught me how to deal with disappointments, how to keep going despite adversity, be resilient and find the best, even in the worst situations. I look back and feel grateful for those difficult years. Without them, I would hardly feel as strong as a driver today.
This season has not been easy for Mercedes, although Hamilton seems to have suffered more than you, especially at the beginning. Why does he think it was easier for him to adapt to the car situation?
Hmm, I can’t speak for Lewis, I can only say that we initially couldn’t find a way to overcome the difficulties of the car at the start.
Mario Andretti told me: “George is driving the best car he has ever had and Lewis maybe the worst”
It’s that at the beginning there were a lot of experiments and it was very easy to be affected by situations that were somewhat ‘unexpected’, so to speak. But Lewis has much more command of the Mercedes and that is why he is so powerful at the moment.
The theme of pouring it’s solved?
I don’t think the theme of pouring is finally resolved. At the Spa circuit, several teams struggled with the tarmac on several laps. Of course, many teams have made great progress compared to the beginning of the year, but we will continue on the same subject until the FIA does not intervene. So as drivers I think we will continue to wait for them to make the necessary modifications, just as they have been doing.
What have you learned next to Hamilton, your reference and now partner?
I feel extremely lucky to be Lewis’s teammate. He is one of the best pilots in history; As a child he was my superhero, so I have learned a lot about how he tries to tune up the car, the details he contemplates when he drives on the track and other ‘little details’ (laughs). In truth, there are many small things that have been key to making me a stronger driver.
He recently said that just as tennis has Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, motorsports has Hamilton…
That’s right, they are the benchmarks of the sport. Each one has their style and that is why they make the difference. Neither copy the other, each brings out the best of himself.
And in other sports, who would be the George Russell?
Phew, there are so many people that I admire tremendously from other disciplines… but I guess I can’t answer that question (laughs).
With Verstappen’s bi-championship imminent, the fight for the podium is insane, where do you expect to be at the end of the season?
It’s really hard to say where we’ll finish because the remaining races are different. We have to see how competitive we can be, but I can say that the goal right now is to win a race, but since there is so little left, I dare to say that we have everything to finish second in both world championships. I really don’t see any reason not to.
ANDRES FELIPE BALAGUERA SARMIENTO
SPORTS JOURNALIST EL TIEMPO
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