Russell: Racing at the front ‘mentally much tougher’

Date published: April 10 2021 - Finley Crebolder

George Russell Mercedes

After his experience in a Mercedes, George Russell believes fighting at the front will be mentally tougher than being a backmarker. 

The Briton has spent the vast majority of his time in Formula 1 at the back of the grid with Williams, failing to score a point for the team in his two full seasons there.

However, he did get a taste of life further forward last season when chosen to stand in for Lewis Hamilton, who had tested positive for COVID-19, at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

It was a roller-coaster of a weekend because after being narrowly beaten to pole position by Valtteri Bottas in qualifying, Russell passed and stayed ahead of the Finn on race day before a pit-stop error from Mercedes and a late puncture ended his chances of winning and caused him to finish down in P9.

He was visibly emotional after the race and, looking back, says it taught him how much of a mental challenge fighting for wins and titles is, which he feels will be a valuable lesson.

“If I want to win races and championships, I can’t let those difficult moments dwell on me,” Russell told inews.co.uk.

“I qualified second for the Sakhir Grand Prix and was disappointed. My best qualifying position until that point was P12, which I was absolutely ecstatic about, and then I’d just qualified second and was disappointed.

“That also taught me that fighting for championships and victories in the future will be mentally much tougher than what I had to endure finishing at the back of the grid for the last two years.

“So those experiences have been a blessing in disguise. I think in the long term, 10, 15 years, I’ll look back and say ‘I wouldn’t change any of those for the world’.”

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A number of top-level athletes, including those in Formula 1, have sports psychologists and Russell started working with one himself before the start of last season.

He says it has benefited him mentally and been enjoyable.

“I was never one of these people who thought mental health isn’t that important and you’re either mentally strong or mentally weak or whatever and you’ve just got to be strong about it if you’ve ever had a difficult moment, toughen up and get through it,” he added.

“You obviously have to, to a certain degree, but equally seeking that professional advice was great. I really enjoyed it and it’s been beneficial for me.”

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