George Russell eager to prove credentials by joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

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George Russell wants to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes to prove what he is capable of – and says he will find out next month if he has landed the hottest ticket in Formula One.

The 23-year-old insists he is still in the dark as to whether Mercedes boss Toto Wolff will promote him from Williams and form a mouth-watering all-British line-up alongside Hamilton at the Silver Arrows in 2022.

The seven-time world champion, 36, recently signed an £80million contract extension to stay for another two years. His team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Russell, a junior driver for Mercedes, are in a direct shootout for the second seat.

George Russell (centre) could replace Valtteri Bottas (right) and join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022
George Russell (centre) could replace Valtteri Bottas (right) and join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022 (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“Of course everybody wants to go up against the best person in the world and show what they are capable of,” Russell told the PA news agency ahead of the British Grand Prix.

“There is a huge amount to learn from a guy like Lewis, so is would be an incredible opportunity. But I don’t know what will happen.

“Mercedes are in control of my future and they will do whatever they believe is right for my career – if they think I am ready now or they don’t think I am ready – it is in their hands.

“I would say by the time we are back racing in Belgium at the end of August, following the summer break, everything will be clear. Realistically, that is the expected timeline.”

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Russell was catapulted into the spotlight when he was handed the keys to Hamilton’s Mercedes at the Sakhir Grand Prix in December after his compatriot tested positive for Covid-19.

The young Briton drove superbly and comfortably had the beating of Bottas only to miss out on a sensational victory following a Mercedes pit-stop gaffe and late puncture.

Russell, now in his third season in F1, was given a hero’s welcome when he was presented to the Silverstone crowd on the eve of his home race.

“I have noticed the big difference because when I first joined the grid in 2019 I was new and at the back, but my profile certainly increased after the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain,” he added.

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“Nobody was out in that period because of the pandemic, so I have gone from very little attention to suddenly a lot and I am learning to deal with that.

“It is odd. Just yesterday I had someone running after me in the street and they were gobsmacked, saying, ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, are you George Russell?’

“It happens a number of times a day, whereas previously I could go to a local supermarket and have no dramas at all. But I recognise what I do, that I am on the TV, and people have opinions.”

And does that include the public telling Russell they want to see him in a Mercedes?

Bottas (right) has been Hamilton's team-mate at Mercedes since 2017
Bottas has been Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes since 2017 (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“There has been a few of them,” he says with a smile. “Personally I just feel like a normal bloke, but I know how I felt looking up to Formula One drivers when I was younger.

“I will always remember being at the 2009 end-of-season Autosport Awards and [F1 Managing Director] Ross Brawn was there because his team [Brawn GP] had just won the world championship.

“I was in the bathroom and Ross walked in. I couldn’t believe it. We were standing next to each other in the urinals and as an 11-year-old, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe Ross Brawn goes to the toilet.

“So after that I recognised he is a normal person as we all are. Of course, the attention is still very surreal but it is special, too.”

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