Ex-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has landed a dig on George Russell, who “wasn’t as good as he thought he was” after a troublesome F1 2023 season.
Russell adapted effortlessly to life as Mercedes driver in 2022, making the step up from Williams look easy and marked a wonderful debut campaign by finishing above seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton in the official standings.
However, his second season was much less straightforward, with Russell not able to extract as much performance out of the quirky Mercedes W14 compared to his team-mate.
Bernie Ecclestone: They shouldn’t have lost so dramatically
That led to quite a noticeable gap between the two British drivers come the end of the F1 2023 campaign – as shown by some of the key metrics in the featured image – and has led to quite the swipe from the 93-year-old former F1 owner.
“[Lewis] Hamilton failed a bit and [George] Russell wasn’t as good as he thought he was either,” Ecclestone has been widely quoted as telling German publication Bild.
“Still, they shouldn’t have lost so dramatically.”
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George Russell won’t care what Bernie thinks
While Ecclestone’s biting comment had some brutality attached to it, there is often no harsher critic than yourself and that will be very much the case for Russell as he picks apart what went wrong for him last season.
Russell shares some of the same personality traits as fellow Brit Lando Norris, having no problem giving very honest feedback when interviews turn to personal performance and self-reflection.
Additionally, with so much noise around Russell given the team he races for and the team-mate he races against, it is important for him to keep his inner circle small and only value the opinion of those who matter most to him.
Top of that list will be his boss, Toto Wolff, who told PlanetF1.com back at the season finale in Abu Dhabi what the plan would be with Russell to get him in the right frame of mind for the new season ahead.
“We will have a good conversation,” he said when asked how he plans on helping pick Russell back up.
“Everybody needs some feedback. He’s a very strong character, and he came out of the summer very strong.
“He changed his approach a little bit, and that was good, and then it swung the other way around and Lewis performed extraordinarily well.
“Everybody needs an arm around the shoulder.
“I have my wife who puts an arm around my shoulder. Everybody needs an arm around them, all of the high performers.”
George Russell will continue racing for Mercedes until at least the end of the 2025 season, having signed a new contract extension alongside Lewis Hamilton last year.