George Russell believes his superb debut for Mercedes allows him to “relax” as he looks to earn a full-time return in 2022.
The Briton is a strong contender to race next year for the World Champions, who currently have a clean slate regarding drivers as Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas’ contracts both end this season.
They will obviously be in the mix to continue, but so will Russell to come in and potentially even Esteban Ocon who, like the Williams driver, is under the management of Mercedes.
Russell made his Mercedes bow in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, called up from Williams after Hamilton contracted COVID-19. He dominated that race, ahead of Bottas, until a pit-stop blunder by the team and a subsequent puncture eventually cost him victory, finishing ninth.
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old thinks that having shown what he can do so impressively on a one-off basis, he does not have to push unduly this season to further illustrate his credentials.
“Up to this point in my career I’ve always been very pushy,” said Russell during Sky F1’s preview of the 2021 season, which starts with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.
“I was very pushy with Mercedes in the first place to get the opportunity to race in GP3, in Formula 2, to get myself into Formula 1.
“But I think I had such a unique opportunity last year in Bahrain that I’m in a very comfortable position.
“I think that race was massive for myself and it gives me the opportunity to sit back, relax and really focus on the driving and what will happen will happen.
“I’d like to think I showed what I can do in a front-running car. Mercedes are my mentors, my managers, and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes in 2022.
“But that opportunity for me was huge and perhaps I would have been going about it slightly differently if I hadn’t had that opportunity last year.”
Don't think I've ever done more laps in an F1 car than we did today! Feeling strong, feeling ready, feeling excited for the season. Let's go have some fun 👊 pic.twitter.com/O44yEUoFMN
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) March 14, 2021
In the meantime, Russell will focus on trying to secure his first points in a Williams, having gone two full campaigns without finishing in the top 10 at the team who effectively have him ‘on loan’ from Mercedes.
Williams have brought in Jost Capito as CEO to try and turn around their fortunes after three seasons in which they have finished with seven, one and zero points respectively – and Russell thinks that under new owners Dorilton Capital, the prospects look much better.
“Jost is so experienced and motivated, it’s sort of a real breath of fresh air,” added Russell. “I think the future of the team looks really great.
“Unfortunately, in F1 things don’t change very quickly. I think 2022 is such a great opportunity for everybody. We’ve now got great leadership, the foundations have been put in place, the financial backing, and we can now start to really focus on the performance.
“In the latter stages of 2019 and the start of 2020 it was all focused on just keeping the team alive really. It may be another tough year, let’s see, but I think from 2022 onwards the team have a bright future ahead of them.”