63 George Russell
George Russell, after winning the Formula 2 championship in 2018, made his Formula 1 debut with Williams the following year. It proved not to be the best time to join the team, which was in dire financial straits and continuously finished at the back. However, the British team are on the way back to the midfield but without George Russell. The Brit makes the big switch to Mercedes in 2022.
|Team||Mercedes AMG F1|
More British success after Lewis Hamilton
Like many other young talents, George Russell started his young career in karting. The karts were exchanged in 2014 for a Formula Renault 2.0 car in which the Briton finished fourth in the championship. That season, he also participated in two rounds of the Eurocup of the same class. The last race of the season was won by Russell.
The move to Formula 4 also paid off immediately, with George Russell taking the title in his first year (despite strong competition). This title gave the Brit the chance to test in a GP3 car and put him on the map to participate in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Racing against other British drivers, Russell managed to win (from Alexander Albon, among others) and thus got a Formula 1 test with McLaren. The first steps towards the premier class were taken.
Instead of tearing through the lower classes like Lance Stroll did, George Russell took the time to gain experience. Two seasons in Formula 3, followed by a year in the GP3 class and a year in Formula 2.
Formula 3 earned George Russell a third place (with a Mercedes engine in the back of his car) in 2016, with ART Grand Prix the Briton did take the title immediately in the 2017 GP3 season. That same year, Mercedes announced that they had included Russell in their junior programme. The Brit became one of three drivers in the Mercedes academy (alongside Esteban Ocon and Andrea Antonelli).
He matured in lower classes and this proved to be useful in Russell’s Formula 2 season. Despite a rough start, the Briton managed to recover to win the title with ART at the expense of fellow F1 rookie Lando Norris.
On several occasions that season (and the previous one) George Russell was allowed to sit in with Mercedes-related teams in Formula 1, doing free practice and tyre tests. Toto Wolff did everything possible to prepare Russell for his debut race in the premier class.
His Formula One debut followed at Williams, where George Russell found the only possible seat as Formula Two champion. Williams sank even further than their dramatic 2018 season. All George Russell could do was beat his teammate and he did. With 21-0, the qualifying duel was decided in Russell’s favour, but the question is whether this was Russell’s skill, or Robert Kubica’s poor form?
Substituting for Mercedes
In 2020, George Russell faced Nicholas Latifi, the runner-up in Formula 2. In the first year, he beat him in qualifying and the race by a wide margin. 2020 was another strong year for George Russell at Williams. A crash in Imola ruined his best chance for points as he parked his car in the wall from P10 behind the safety car.
In Bahrain, however, a miracle happened. A positive COVID-19 test from Lewis Hamilton allowed George Russell to step into the car of the seven times world champion. The chance for the young Brit to put himself on the map as F2 champion.
Strategic errors by Mercedes, however, ruined any chance of victory, but a ninth place finish and fastest lap gave George Russell his first points in Formula 1. In Abu Dhabi he had to return, disappointingly, to Williams because Hamilton had recovered.
Russell switches to Mercedes after 2021
In 2021 Russell managed to score a few points on behalf of Williams, with a second place in the rained-off Belgian Grand Prix as a highlight. The Williams car was not capable of much more, as the British team set their sights early on 2022.
In the summer of the 2021 season, Mercedes finally tied the knot: Valtteri Bottas will leave to make way for George Russell in 2022, who after three years with Williams is finally making the big switch that had been in the air since his fill-in for Hamilton in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.
George Russell in 2022
As Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes, the performance pressure will be higher than ever for George Russell. He will need to find his feet quickly in the 2022 car to avoid being relegated to the role of second driver. However, if he is able to compete with Hamilton, it remains to be seen how long the atmosphere within the team will remain positive.