Leclerc backs ‘extremely talented’ Russell to excel at Merc

Michelle Foster
George Russell shakes hands with Charles Leclerc. Britain July 2021

George Russell going over to Charles Leclerc, who is in the cockpit of his Ferrari, to shake his hand. Britain July 2021

Charles Leclerc has no doubt George Russell will do “very, very well and impress” on his move to Mercedes next season.

The open secret everyone was waiting to be disclosed was finally announced on Tuesday morning when Mercedes confirmed the Briton was switching to them from Williams.

His signing means that, unless Mercedes or Ferrari get it very wrong with next year’s all-new cars, Russell will find himself regular racing against his former team-mate Leclerc for podiums, maybe race wins, and perhaps even a World title.

The duo were team-mates back in their karting days before making their way up the ranks into GP3 Series and Formula 2, both winning back-to-back championships in those two feeder series.

Leclerc, his career a year ahead of Russell’s, was promoted to Formula 1 in 2018 with Russell making the move up a year later.

“I’ve actually been team-mates with George,” Leclerc said. “It was a long time ago in karting.

“I think what I’ve seen of him since that time is that he’s just extremely talented, and every time he got into the kart back then, or the car now, he’s just quick straight away.

“His talent makes him special.

“I think he deserves his chance at Mercedes and I’m pretty sure he will perform very, very well and impress more than one person.”

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The Briton, who qualified a career best P2 in the wet at the Belgian Grand Prix which paved the way for his first ever podium in the washed-out race, has also been backed by his Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi.

The Canadian says while Russell is Mr Saturday, there is more to his talent than qualifying pace.

“Being team-mates with him currently, and in recent times, I know first hand exactly how quick he is,” he told the official F1 website.

“I think to the public, the Saturday performances are quite stand-out, and I obviously see from behind the scenes on the data how quick he is exactly in those scenarios.

“But I think besides the actual raw speed he has, his ability to always put everything together on that crucial moment, that lap that counts, is very impressive.

“Even besides the ‘Mr Saturday’ tag, there’s a lot of things outside of qualifying. Managing little details in the race and a lot of peripheral things he’s very, very strong at. It’s quite impressive.

“We already saw what he was capable of doing last year in Bahrain [when he replaced Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix], so I have no doubts he’ll be on the pace straight away.”