‘Leclerc and Verstappen wouldn’t turn down Mercedes’

Jamie Woodhouse
Charles Leclerc has said he and Max Verstappen did not get along as karting kids – but which of the now-friendlier duo will have the greater F1 career?

George Russell says that neither Red Bull’s Max Verstappen or Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc would say no if Mercedes came calling.

The driver market for 2021 is slowly showing signs of falling into place, though it is being complicated somewhat by the absence of any real-life racing so far this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lewis Hamilton is yet to sign a new deal with Mercedes – his contract is up at the end of 2020, while Valtteri Bottas’ latest rolling one-year deal will also come to an end.

Over at Ferrari Sebastian Vettel is yet to agree an extension to his deal which is up after 2020, though he has reportedly been offered a one-year extension.

Red Bull’s Verstappen and Ferrari’s Leclerc are in fact the only drivers in the top three teams who have their futures secured already thanks to deals running to 2023 and 2024 respectively.

Russell is of course in prime position to take a seat with the Silver Arrows since he serves as a junior driver for the team, but he believes that neither Verstappen or Leclerc would say no if the six-time consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ champions Mercedes came calling.

“My aspirations are clear: I want to be world champion,” he told the Evening Standard.

“At the moment, I’m very loyal to Williams. They gave me my opportunity to drive in F1 and I’ll never, ever forget that.

“I’m associated with Mercedes and of course, they’re the dominant force and every single driver in F1 wouldn’t turn them down, even Max [Verstappen] and Charles. That’s how much people would want to be in the Mercedes.”

Russell’s first season in Formula 1 last year was a tricky one – although he was dominant against former Williams team-mate Robert Kubica, the uncompetitive FW42 meant he finished 2019 as the only driver without a World Championship point.

But Russell graduated to the series as the reigning F2 champion, finishing ahead of Lando Norris and Alex Albon who now find themselves at McLaren and Red Bull respectively, so he feels their achievements highlight what he himself can be capable of.

“It’s sort of a new generation for us young drivers,” he said.

“It’s great that I came into F1 and racing against other people I’ve raced before.

“It is difficult sometimes when you see guys you competed against fairly in F2 who are now at the front of the grid and I’m at the back. But I know what it’s like; it’s swings and roundabouts. I’m happy to play the long game because I want a 15 to 20-year career in F1.

“I know that whatever happens now, it’s not going to define me or Lando or Alex. We’ll get our chance. I’ll be honest and say I’m happy for them, happy that they’re shining, but hopefully I get my chance too.”

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