By James Broughton, June 2, 2022
He may look like a fashion model for Marks & Spencer’s latest jumper and cardigan catalog, but make no mistake George Russell is a man on a mission. Russell entered Formula One with a good pedigree having won the 2017 GP3 title and following it up with the 2018 F2 championship. That winning streak put Russell in a Williams Formula One seat for 2019. However, Russell joined Williams in a period of significant decline. The once-mighty all-conquering Williams of the 80s and 90s had gone from the front row of the grid to propping up the back.
Russell is a protege of the Mercedes Young Driver Programme, but at Williams, he had to prove himself worthy of joining the Mercedes F1 team. Russell out-performed the equipment given to him by Williams and by a wide margin. The Williams was stubbornly back of the grid material.
Nevertheless, Russell proved himself and in 2022 joined Mercedes. How does a young gun, hotshot driver go up against a 7 times world champion? We’ve been here before. Nelson Piquet was decimated by a young gun, hotshot Michael Schumacher at Benetton. Aryton Senna supplanted Alain Prost at McLaren. Ditto Leclerc vs Vettel.
A young gun, hotshot Lewis Hamilton battled with Fernando Alonso in his first season with McLaren. And now the circle is being completed. Lewis Hamilton is the experienced and venerated driver being beaten by the up-and-coming young gun, hotshot George Russell. The story of the younger driver beating the experienced pro is often repeated in F1.
And whenever such a scenario occurs, questions start to be asked. The younger drivers are hungry and take more risks to extract speed. The older more experienced drivers have switched to making calculated decisions. This is how drivers evolve over the course of their F1 careers, Russell will eventually adopt the same approach.
One day, a more experienced race-winning George Russell will be at the receiving end of a hungry, maximum risk-taking young gun hotshot driver. And when that time comes to pass another circle will be complete. At that point, questions will be asked of Russell in the same manner questions are being asked of Hamilton.
Can Hamilton turn his form around? The single-lap pace difference between Hamilton and Russell is the width of a paper. Russell is marginally ahead. The races are where Hamilton is much quicker. Hamilton hasn’t had the best of luck and finds himself 34 points behind his teammate in the current championship table.
Luck is an unquantifiable measurement, but you have to make your own luck which is no different from making magic. Former Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan believes F1 is witnessing a changing of the guard. During an interview on Britain’s Channel 4 TV station, Jordan said:
“He [Hamilton] is no longer top dog, not even in that team because Russell has taken his perch away.”
“I think the big surprise is, everybody globally, in Formula 1 context, thinks that Lewis Hamilton is top dog.”
“And I think it’s very interesting to watch and I want to see how Lewis is going to overcome that.”