George Russell has no qualms over Lewis Hamilton possibly leaving
‘I don’t CARE if Hamilton stays or goes’: George Russell isn’t bothered if his Mercedes team-mate leaves or not… as he confidently backs himself to ‘beat ANYONE on the grid’ ahead of Monaco showdown
- George Russell has admitted he isn’t concerned about Lewis Hamilton’s future
- Mail Sport previously revealed that Hamilton could be on his way to join Ferrari
- Russell explained that he has enjoyed learning from the seven-time champion
George Russell turns to look over his left shoulder as he sits on the top floor of Mercedes’ glistening motorhome, and points to home.
‘Over there,’ he says. ‘In the quiet end of town.’ So on Sunday, on the world’s most famous strip of track, King’s Lynn-born Russell will attempt to become the latest local boy to win the Monaco Grand Prix, though the evidence of practice yesterday indicated that will be no easy task. Mercedes were half a second or more back from Max Verstappen.
Russell moved to the principality over the winter after a year’s delay, so as to not be distracted as he started out at Mercedes in early 2022. He has called most things right ever since.
Having finished last season ahead of his neighbour and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, he is currently 16 points adrift but very much in touch with him, as demonstrated by qualifying faster on four out of five occasions.
In other words, Russell has proved himself worthy to be considered Hamilton’s heir at the Silver Arrows. One wonders whether news that the older man intends to stay beyond his current contract might act as a roadblock?
George Russell (left) has no concerns over whether his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton (right) stays at the team
Russell is targeting victory in this weekend’s Monaco grand prix on a circuit that he knows well
Russell is used to his Monaco surroundings after making the move to live in the principality over the winter
‘I don’t care at all whether Lewis stays or Lewis goes, because I believe I can beat anyone on the grid,’ said Russell, aged 25 and 13 years younger than Hamilton.
Optimism and positivity runs through his life and why not? He begins each day by jumping into the Med. Then it is the gym, or a run or cycle in the sun. Even his regular restaurant is situated almost on his doorstep. He enjoys the new circle he has found here, a long way from Norfolk.
‘I have more friends here than I did back home, which is ironic,’ he tells Mail Sport. He has been riding with one of them, 37-year-old Welshman Geraint Thomas, favourite to win the Giro d’Italia this weekend.
His boss Toto Wolff also lives in Monaco, as does best pal Alex Albon and a host of the other stars of tomorrow’s fabled race, among them Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Nyck de Vries and Nico Hulkenburg.
Only one is a genuine Monegasque, Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari man comes from the kind of garage-owning family that services the super-rich.
Russell awaits an invitation to the Grimaldi Palace, but he has met Prince Albert, ruler of the tiny country his mother Grace Kelly adorned, and they have swapped numbers.
But it is the car that has caused headaches. Mercedes took the wrong design turn when the regulations were overhauled last year and have been going round the cul-de-sac ever since.
Their major upgrade was launched in practice yesterday — new sidepod, front suspension and, most importantly, a remodelled floor, in a bid to master the vortices created under the car that are key to performance.
Russell has recently signed an undisclosed extension at Mercedes
Immediate results were not compelling as Verstappen led after a tricky earlier session. Leclerc and Sainz were second and third for Ferrari. Then came Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lando Norris, followed by Hamilton, half a second off the pace. Russell was only 12th, seven-tenths adrift.
‘Not as close as I hoped we would be,’ came Hamilton’s verdict. It said a lot. The broader underperformance at Mercedes was the opposite of the high hopes Russell harboured when he moved from an ailing Williams team to a dominant Mercedes.
But he remains calm and loyal and has quietly signed an extension to his contract, the details of which are undisclosed. ‘You couldn’t choose to be in a better position than to go up against Lewis,’ reasons Russell, always careful to walk the line between respect and unflinching competitiveness.
‘What a way to test myself. While we’re in this position, he is invaluable to me. There can be no excuses on either side. He’s pushing me, I’m pushing him. I am here to beat everybody.
‘I never had any self-doubt and having these 15 months alongside him has reinforced that. My confidence has grown. We have a good relationship and it would be great if we could turn this around and help the team to winning ways.’
Russell (R) said learning from the seven-time world champion (L) has been invaluable to him
Hamilton (R) has been heavily linked with making a possible move to join Italian garage Ferrari
What, I wonder, has surprised him about Hamilton and what lessons has the apprentice absorbed from the sorcerer?
‘Lewis is very good with people,’ says Russell. ‘He’s very caring, he works exceptionally hard. He’s comfortable travelling a lot, doing a lot of activities. It wouldn’t be a lifestyle many athletes want.
‘I definitely need a way to escape from the sport. I spent a few days away over the weekend on a boat for the first time. What I learned from Lewis and saw in other great athletes is that you need to understand yourself and do what is right for you. You don’t follow anyone else’s path, you have to pave your own.
‘It may not be this year or next that everything falls into place. But look at Fernando, aged 41. So I have at least 15 good years left in me. You have to be patient, keep working, doing your thing, and no doubt my time will come.’
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