While George Russell wants to be ahead of Lewis Hamilton, he believes he matched “the greatest of all time” for pace in F1 2023 and so must take the positives from that.
Russell has now spent two seasons as Mercedes team-mate to seven-time World Champion Hamilton, though the second campaign did not go nearly as well as the first.
Having scored Mercedes’ only win of 2022 in Brazil, Russell ended his first season with the Silver Arrows ahead of Hamilton in the standings, but that swung for F1 2023 to produce a comfortable defeat for Russell against his iconic team-mate.
George Russell matching Lewis Hamilton pace
Russell reflected on his F1 2023 campaign as one of the strangest of his career where the results just did not come together, only two podium finishes achieved across the season.
However, Russell places his outright pace on a par with Hamilton’s and while he does not want to settle for this, he admits he needs to be “realistic” and see the achievement in simply being a match for Hamilton, who has a record 103 grand prix wins to his name.
“I’ve been on Lewis’ level, on average, throughout this year,” said Russell in an interview with the Telegraph.
“And I’m not satisfied with just being on his level. I want to be ahead of him. But I’ve also got to be realistic.
“I’m going up against the greatest driver of all time. He’s definitely not a bad benchmark. And, you know, I think qualy statistics, if you include sprint races, we’re exactly the same. And pace-wise, we’re generally the same as well.
“So there are positives. And to be honest I’d prefer to be sat here without the results, but with the pace. Rather than saying ‘Oh, we lucked into a result here or we lucked into a result there’ when actually I was a tenth or two off the pace.”
George Russell is not feeling the pressure
Russell could potentially have added a second win to his F1 CV at the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix, but his ambitions were met with disaster while harrying leader Carlos Sainz for the victory as he crashed out in the closing stages.
Singapore was his “lowest point of the season”, though Russell denied the suggestion that he was suffering second-season syndrome and crumbling under the pressure in a underwhelming second Mercedes season alongside Hamilton.
“There have been a few small incidents,” he said. “Nothing major, but they happened.
“They haven’t happened in previous years. I need to try to understand why that is.
“It’s not pressure. I don’t care if I have the greatest driver of all time in the garage next to me, or if I’m a one-man team. It doesn’t change the way I approach my job. There’s definitely been no additional pressure.”
Both Hamilton and Russell signed new Mercedes contracts during the F1 2023 campaign, keeping them with the team until the end of 2025.
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