‘Don’t make any mistakes here, Russell is the real deal’

Henry Valantine
George Russell is interviewed at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.

Mercedes driver George Russell is interviewed at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft says Mercedes have got “the real deal” in George Russell, and believes the Briton has World Champion potential.

Russell’s long-awaited move to the Silver Arrows was confirmed on Tuesday, following the announcement that Valtteri Bottas will be making the switch to Alfa Romeo in 2022.

Team principal Toto Wolff said that Bottas had “deserved to stay” with his current employers, but Sky’s lead commentator felt that promoting Russell to the Mercedes senior squad was the right thing to do long-term.

Croft told Sky Sports: “Ever since Toto Wolff put Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on a contract that ended at the end of this season, with George Russell’s contract at Williams also coming to an end at the end of this season, we knew that two into three didn’t go and someone had to make way.

“And in the end, it is Valtteri Bottas, and I think that is the right choice as well.

“You can argue long and hard that Valtteri deserves to stay, after all he’s finished runner-up in the Championship to Lewis Hamilton for the last two seasons. But they have got to look to the future, and George Russell very much is the future.”

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Russell has already spoken of his excitement about working alongside Formula 1’s most successful driver in Hamilton, who signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes in the summer.

Croft compared Russell’s rise to that of Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, and how he will have the chance to gain tutelage from a multiple World Champion – before moving on to be the team’s number one driver in the future.

“Absolutely,” Croft replied when asked if Russell is being prepared to eventually become team leader. “And he now gets two years potentially, maybe more, to learn alongside Lewis Hamilton, who George Russell has referred to as the greatest driver of all time.

“A few years ago we raved about Charles Leclerc when he went to Ferrari, and said this was a brilliant signing for Ferrari, potential World Champion in the making.

“Well along with Charles Leclerc, George Russell is the only driver to have won the GP3 title and the F2 title in consecutive seasons.

“Don’t make any mistakes here, he is the real deal, he is a fantastically talented, fast but calm and composed driver.

“Who we saw at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year jump into Lewis Hamilton’s car, put it on the front row, miss out on pole by a fraction, and miss out on a win only because of a late puncture in the race, and that was after a bungled pit stop as well.

“He has the potential to be a World Champion one day, and Mercedes know that, so he has to move into the top team now otherwise they fear losing him from their driver stable, because he is impatient, like anyone with that amount of talent would be, to drive for a top team.”