How Mercedes are currently preventing George Russell from realising F1 destiny

Oliver Harden
Mercedes driver George Russell looks tense ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Mercedes driver George Russell looks tense ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has “no doubt” that George Russell will become World Champion once the team can provide him with a winning F1 car.

Russell has enjoyed an extraordinary rise since arriving in F1 with Williams in 2019, with the British driver selected as Lewis Hamilton’s new team-mate for 2022 following a number of shock results for the backmarkers.

His arrival coincided with Mercedes’ struggles to get to grips with the new ground effect regulations, though Russell claimed his maiden victory at the penultimate round of 2022 having started the season with a memorable run of 15 top-five finishes – including six podiums – in the first 16 races.

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With the W14 car still short of the dominant Red Bull team, Russell has just one podium finish – third place in Barcelona – to show from the first 11 races of the 2023 season, which has included early qualifying exits in Azerbaijan, Spain, Austria and Hungary.

He has started ahead of Hamilton just once since Mercedes’ heavily upgraded W14 car arrived in Monaco, with Russell retiring due to damage in Canada after an unusual mistake saw him strike the wall.

Appearing in the teams representatives’ press conference in Budapest last weekend, Shovlin was full of praise for Russell’s skill and professionalism – and is convinced that the 25-year-old is on a trajectory that will one day see him crowned World Champion.

He said: “He’s a hugely professional driver who’s working very, very hard. And he’s one of those that you’d say no doubt he’ll win a Championship at some point, providing we can give him a car that’s fit for that job and we’re obviously working very hard to achieve that.

“But he’s very technical. He adapts well to different conditions. All good drivers get better over time, they’re focused on looking for every opportunity to improve.

“And when he got pole here last year it was a surprise for us, because we didn’t have a good Friday. We did make some changes to the car, but he did a fantastic job in qualifying to get that.

“So, he’s super focused and no doubt that he’ll be part of much success for the team in the future.”

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In Austria earlier this month, Russell rejected the notion that he is struggling more than Hamilton in the revised W14, claiming his team-mate is not exactly comfortable with the car either.

“It’s just one of those things, you sort of [get] a bit of a groove, a bit of a rhythm,” he said.

“Lewis is still struggling a lot with the car. I think it’s just more that I’ve taken a bit of a step backwards. [I’ve] got some some ideas why that is but it’s fine details.”

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