Former F1 world champion Damon Hill has offered George Russell advice as the 24-year-old gears up for his debut as a fully-fledged Mercedes driver. Having made the jump from Williams, Russell will embark on a relationship of cooperation and competition with Lewis Hamilton who has already etched his name into the sport’s history books many times over.
At the end of last season, Russell got the call up to replace Valtteri Bottas who will partner Chinese rookie Guanyu Zhou at Alfa Romeo. The Finn helped Mercedes towards a Constructors’ Championship in every season of his five-year stint.
Russell more than doubled the points total of his Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi last season, even if the team broadly lacked pace. The Brit also nurtured a reputation for being a whizz in qualifying, which has sparked excitement about how he could fare long term in a competitive car.
The fact remains, however, that he will be under big pressure alongside seven-time world champion Hamilton. Hill, who won the world title in 1996, has offered Russell some advice while pointing out that he still has to iron out one or two imperfections.
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“[My advice would be to] just make sure you’re fast,” the Sky Sports F1 expert told Express Sport, “He’s going to have to be, probably, faster than he’s ever been before. It is a big step.
“He’s very in tune with the business and he knows the team very well, so he’s not completely out of his comfort zone. It’s what happens if he finds it hard to match his team-mate over a longer period of time.
Amid widespread expectations to take the fight to Red Bull for the season ahead, Russell agrees with Hamilton’s performance concerns when it comes to Mercedes’ W13. During pre-season tests in Bahrain, both drivers grappled with understeer and porpoising issues which wreaked havoc with their lap-times.
Uncertainty surrounding the Silver Arrows’ true performance remains, however, as they came into last year’s curtain-raiser competitive after a similarly troublesome pre-season. For that reason, rivals Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz have both cast doubt over their early concerns.
Sainz labelled Mercedes’ scepticism ahead of the season opener ‘typical’ while Verstappen said: “If someone is doing well or a team that everyone expects to do well, then it’s: ‘Oh no, we’re definitely not the favourite’. And then a week later, when things do go well, all of a sudden it’s: ‘Oh no, but we turned it around completely within a week. Not normal, unbelievable work. Thanks to all people in the factory!’”
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