George Russell reveals his biggest weakness and steps to building mental resilience

Thomas Maher
George Russell applauding on the podium. Baku June 2022

Mercedes driver George Russell applauding on the podium. Baku June 2022

George Russell has revealed how psychologist visits have helped him become more mentally resilient, and admitted to what he felt is his biggest weakness.

George Russell has said the difficulties in dealing with public perception on social media has resulted in him talking to a psychologist on a semi-regular basis in order to ‘lift the weight’.

Having stepped into the spotlight of Formula 1 as a frontrunner in 2022 upon his promotion to the Mercedes F1 team, Russell said the extra pressures of dealing with the relentless public scrutiny have resulted in him talking to a psychologist to help alleviate the stress.

With a gruelling travel schedule, non-stop pressure to perform, and all the drawbacks of such public visibility, Russell admitted being an F1 driver isn’t the easiest of professions.

George Russell: Social media can be so ruthless

“It absolutely challenges your mental health so much,” he told the High Performance Podcast.

“You’ve got to be so resilient to the negativity in this world, whether it’s the public perception, whether it’s social media, whether it’s the pressures of the team, or even the pressures of yourself.

“But I think, the biggest one probably for me, is that public perception, the social media side, which is a tough one. I think that’s also relatable to people who aren’t in the spotlight, because social media is a pretty ruthless platform.”

Asked how he dealt with the drawbacks of social media and dealing with public opinion, Russell admitted to a very easy solution.

“Just don’t read comments!” he explained.

“It’s a pretty straightforward, simple one. But, talking to a professional, I have a psychologist who I talk to. It’s not routinely, but I always pick up the phone whenever I feel like I need it.

“I always leave that conversation feeling better about myself, there’s a weight lifted off my shoulders. I think a number of people have said this before… it’s the same way as if you want to get fitter, you go to the gym, and you speak to a personal trainer. If there’s anything weighing on your mind, you need to talk to a professional about it and seek that help.”

George Russell reveals his greatest strengths, and a big weakness…

The conversation then turned to identifying weaknesses, with Russell admitting that he can be quick to apportion blame where it’s not warranted.

“I’d say my biggest weakness is probably, in the heat of the moment, blaming others before looking at myself,” he said.

An example of this could be his clash with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas at Imola in 2021, when he lost control in the slippery conditions when attempting to pass the Finn. Russell was incandescent with rage, pointing the finger of blame at the Finn in the media afterward – a stance that neither Bottas nor Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff agreed with.

“I think it’s very easy to have tunnel vision, especially in the heat of battle,” he said.

“If something goes wrong, goes against you, I think it’s quite easy to jump on to that other person.”

But Russell didn’t dwell on his weaknesses, instead highlighting what he feels is his biggest strength.

“I think, probably being dynamic to a situation,” he offered.

“Our life is constantly changing, whether it’s travel plans, whether it’s racing on track – one day is dry, one day it’s wet. Climates are changing, conditions are changing, time zones are changing. You can’t have a strict routine in the sport that we do. You’ve got to be dynamic, you’ve got to accept that things will change.

“There’s a lot of sacrifice on not only you, but probably the people around you – the emotions you go through. Once again, it’s not just you, it’s everyone on this journey with you.”

Adding to this, Russell said there’s plenty of hidden pressure that perhaps isn’t taken into consideration by observers.

“Probably the biggest hidden cost is that emotion that I see the effect it has on the people I’m closest to when I succeed,” he said.

“That’s such a great elation feeling to see that you’ve had this positive impact on the people you love the most.

“But, when something goes against you, or you have a bad weekend or you fail, I see this on the people around me as well. So you’re probably carrying that weight.”

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