Formula One’s George Russell could be on the verge of something incredibly special in his career, as he waits patiently in the wings to see if he will become Lewis Hamilton’s new team-mate at Mercedes next season.
But with success, comes pressure – and to be alongside a driver that has been beaten in the championship just once in six years, the young Williams driver will have to ensure he doesn’t fall into Hamilton’s shadow.
Hamilton has broken countless records, snatched seven-world titles, and has become a global phenomenon – with Nico Rosberg the only driver to beat the 36-year-old across a single season at the British-based German team.
Valtteri Bottas meanwhile, who has been alongside Hamilton since 2017, has failed at every attempt.
Yet, there is no suggestion Bottas is a bad driver. Mercedes clearly saw something in the Finn to entrust him with filling Rosberg’s shoes as the German unexpectedly retired days after winning the 2016 World Championship.
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But set with the task to beat Hamilton on a regular basis takes something incredibly special, and perhaps just a little bit of luck sprinkled in.
In 2019, Bottas finished in second place in the driver standings, his most successful season in F1, yet he was still 87 points adrift of Hamilton. Verstappen finished third, 48 points behind Bottas, but it seemed the Briton was just untouchable – and the 31-year-old Finn had to settle for second, somewhere he’s found himself a lot in his career at Mercedes.
Russell’s formidable task in avoiding that number two status is thus very clearly marked out, should he join Hamilton.
Speaking exclusively to Express Sport after Hamilton put pen to paper to remain at Mercedes until the end of 2024, Russell was pleased he could pit his wits against the best.
“You want to be racing against the best drivers in the world, and that’s what makes Formula One what it is,” Russell told Express Sport.
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“And Lewis is without a doubt, you know, obviously probably the greatest of all time and still is going incredibly strong.
“If Lewis wasn’t on the grid, we’d be missing out on one of the best drivers of it. So it’s just great to have him stay in for another couple of years.”
It’s fair to say Russell is up for the challenge alongside Hamilton, if Mercedes decide to switch their driver. However, the 23-year-old will now have to adapt to a completely new dynamic at the team.
At Williams, he was the main event, pushing the team to over-deliver during his three-year stay, but at Mercedes Hamilton’s status is unquestioned.
Russell proved himself when stepping in for the seven-time world champion at the Sakhir Grand Prix, very nearly beating Bottas on the first try.
But beating Hamilton represents a different level of challenge for Russell, and as Rosberg found out, Hamilton refuses to go down without a fight, even if it is his own team-mate alongside him.