Can George Russell Challenge Hamilton & Verstappen in 202217 Feb
Ahead of his move to Mercedes, we look at George Russell’s career to date and evaluate his chances of success alongside the mighty Lewis Hamilton.
Like the vast majority of his competitors on the F1 grid, Russell’s career started in karting at eight years-old and success was instant, winning 8 titles in the space of 7 years.
A seamless transition into single-seaters saw George claim the 2014 BRDC F4 Championship in his first season, alongside successful guest appearances in Europe. This achievement secured him the accolade of the McLaren BRDC Autosport Award, before moving to FIA F3 Europe and taking pole on his first visit to the prestigious Macau Grand Prix – attracting the attention of the F1 paddock and his new team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1.
Moving to F1 weekends in 2017, the Mercedes-Benz junior claimed the GP3 (now FIA F3) title in emphatic style, with two races to spare – rewarded with a pair of F1 Free Practice sessions with the then Sahara Force India team. 2018 saw Russell’s formidable success continue as he secured the FIA F2 at his first attempt, notching an impressive seven wins throughout the season.
“Mr Saturday” started accelerating his reputation in 2019 and 2020 as he joined Williams Racing. Now everyone knows Williams were in a tough place a few years ago, but the performances Russell was able to extract from the car was nothing short of Senna-esque in the Toleman – nine Q2 appearances in 2020 cementing his status as a rising star of the sport.
Undoubtedly, George’s big moment was at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, replacing the unwell Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and taking the fight to his much more experienced teammate, Valtteri Bottas. We all know what happened on that race day – Russell had his maiden win cruelly taken away twice with a pit mix-up and then slow puncture. But his status and ability was clear for the world to see, with Toto Wolff commenting "It's not going to be George's last attempt to win a race. This is just the beginning of a fairy tale that didn't work out today and I would say a new star is born… We learned George Russell is someone to count on in the future. He has all the potential and all the ingredients that a future star needs.”
2021 saw George continue to progress his abilities, the highlight being a front-row start and podium at a rain effected Spa as well as a storming drive at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
So 2022… new cars, new team, new teammate (who also happens to be statistically the best ever F1 driver) – it’s a pivotal year for the young Brit. The question on everyone’s lips is can he take the fight to Lewis? Hamilton is coming to the twilight of his glittering career, and we can’t help but feel this is a changing of the guard moment - similar to years past as the likes of Prost, Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton himself made the existing drivers take note of the young, hungry talent coming through.
Now Bottas has been a fantastic asset for Mercedes, there’s no denying that, but has he really taken the fight to Lewis the past few seasons? On the whole, no. But do we anticipate George to challenge the establishment? You bet. Based on his vast success and proven ability, it’s a reasonable assumption that he will be a threat to Hamilton as well as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Will sparks fly much like the Hamilton-Rosberg battle of 2016? Probably not from the outset, but, don’t be surprised if “Mr Saturday” is at the sharp end of the grid at the first race of the 2022 season – which is ironically at the venue of his only Mercedes outing to date, Bahrain.