The new Williams CEO was working for Sauber at the time Raikkonen was making the step up into Formula 1 in 2001, and Capito believes there are parallels to be drawn with the Brit’s rise in the sport alongside the journey of the 2007 World Champion.
“There is a lot in George, I see a lot [of] what I’ve seen in Kimi,” Capito said on F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast. “His driving is brilliant.”
“I believed in [Raikkonen] from the first time, when I had discussions with his managers I knew. They gave me [his] name and I looked it up. I found out that he won races with a car in the rain on slicks, because he couldn’t afford wets.
“Then I followed his racing here in 2000, and especially the Formula 3 race in Spa was absolutely impressive, where I think he had an engine failure or something in first free practice, and then in the rain he set the best time in qualifying.
“When he came the first time to Hinwil [Sauber’s base], I think looking in his eyes I knew he is the guy you have to keep.
“With Kimi it was clear he would be exceptional. I had this feeling right from the beginning.”
Capito also hailed Russell’s “natural talent”, while adding that being the Briton’s team-mate is a similar proposition to having Lewis Hamilton on the other side of the garage.
Russell stormed his way through to Formula 1 by winning the GP3 and Formula 2 championships in consecutive seasons before penning a three-year deal at Williams, with his future beyond 2021 a hot topic of discussion throughout the paddock.
Now in his third season in F1, Russell has only been out-qualified once by a team-mate in his career – beaten by Valtteri Bottas by less than a tenth of a second when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
“Because he is demanding, he wants more and more, he is never happy, and the driver should never be happy with what he has,” Capito added.
“But he has the ability to get the team behind him. Everybody is really pushing and motivated to give him what he is demanding, and that is an ability that really a top driver needs.”