Russell: Drivers don’t get quicker, they get better

Michelle Foster
George Russell climbing into the Mercedes. Yas Marina December 2021.

George Russell climbing into the Mercedes at the Abu Dhabi post-season test. Yas Marina December 2021.

George Russell does not believe F1 drivers get “quicker”, what they do is become more experienced and more consistent.

And it is that “very wide window of experience” that he gained while at Williams, that he hopes will see him succeed with his new team Mercedes.

After three years with Williams, a mixed bags of highs and lows for the driver, Russell has been signed by Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s 2022 team-mate.

The move will mean the Briton is going from the back of the grid to the very front, joining a team where he will be expected to win grands prix and even fight for the World title.

Russell reckons the “toolbox of experience” that he has gained to date in Formula 1 will stand him in good stead.

“I don’t believe a driver gets quicker,” he told GPFans. “They do get better, more consistent and probably what has allowed me to do that is having a better understanding of the technical side.

“What does it take to get the tyres in the right window to start a lap? How do you deal with your out laps to make sure you’re in the right position, not in too much traffic? If there is traffic, how do you deal with that? What do you need to do differently if a tyre is too hot or too cold?

“Having built up that toolbox of experience knowing, right, I couldn’t have the perfect out lap because there was some traffic in sector three so I’m going to be slightly under the limit at Turn 1, but then from Turn 2 onwards the tyre should be in a good window to be able to go from there.

“If you go banzai into Turn 1 and the tyres are slightly too cold, your lap’s gone. So [it is about] understanding these limitations.

“Then when you get into a race that’s the really tricky bit, managing so many things at once.”

George Russell spraying the fizz after finishing second in the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps August 2021.

Entering Formula 1 with the Williams team, Russell found himself at the back of the grid more often than not during his three seasons.

He did not score a single point with the Grove team in his first two years, more because of Williams’ form than his own, before finally breaking his duck at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

That P8 was followed one race later by a first-ever Formula 1 podium, Russell P2 at a washed-out Belgian Grand Prix.

Two more top-10 showings brought his tally up 16 points, Russell helping Williams avoid a fourth successive wooden spoon in the Constructors’ Championship.

The team finished the season P8, ahead of both Alfa Romeo and Haas.

“I feel like we’ve had this very wide window of experience that will allow me to delve into it under certain circumstances,” Russell added.

“If you’re in a championship battle, no matter what the position is, if you’ve a relatively optimised package, you don’t feel comfortable to step outside of the comfort zone too often because you can’t risk it. Every race is so valuable.

“So, we know this is what works, so we’ve just got to continue in this rhythm and try and have the best possible.

“Whereas [at Williams], we could explore setup quite drastically, and I could explore my driving style quite drastically because we were effectively in this big, long test session.

“Every single race we were approaching it as ‘Let’s just keep pushing the tyres and building this understanding so that when the time does come, we should be able to be on top of things’.

“I think that helped us, in given circumstances and tricky conditions, to make more from it.


“Obviously, I would have loved to have been in the fight, in the mix racing harder. But ultimately, when I got back to that position, I feel like I didn’t miss out on anything.

“It’s still racing, at the end of the day, and you’ve got to take the positives in every situation.”


Russell sees no point in studying Hamilton

George Russell says that he won't be studying Lewis Hamilton.