George Russell’s pressure to perform

A need to impress

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By Olivier Ferret

22 July 2020 - 08:45
George Russell’s pressure to perform

In 2019, Norfolk-born driver, George Russell, made his debut season in Formula One. Having made a name for himself by becoming the F2 champion the year before, much was expected of the Mercedes junior driver. It’s fair to say that 22-year-old Russell lived up to the hype in his maiden season, albeit having to do so in a below-par Williams.

Despite finishing the 2019 championship in 20th position, the Englishman out-qualified his teammate, Robert Kubica, in all 21 races. While Russell doesn’t lack the speed nor bravery to deliver point-scoring results, achieving top-ten finishes with his current team is a challenging task. That said, he’s still under pressure to perform in 2020. So, let’s take a look at why that’s the case.

A Need to Impress

Over the last few months, the F1 driver market has been going through the motions. This has offered clarity for some drivers, with Ferrari set for the coming seasons as they have a promising young partnership of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who is 50/1 at Space Casino to win this year’s Drivers Championship. However, others are left wondering what their futures hold. While Russell is committed to helping Williams recover in the short-term, particularly in regards to their race pace, there is plenty of speculation surrounding his next career move.

Given that he is part of Mercedes’ junior program, Toto Wolff and the Brackley-based team have a keen interest in the 22-year-old’s fortunes. It’s no secret that the German car’s team principal is an admirer of Russell’s talents, declaring in an interview in January 2020 that the youngster has the qualities of a future Mercedes driver. At the time of writing, there is no confirmation on potential contract extensions for both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, potentially leaving the door open for Russell in 2021.

However, with Bottas having proved himself as a capable number two to the six-time champion, and with Sebastian Vettel being linked with a move to Mercedes, Williams’ 22-year-old driver is under pressure to perform in 2020 if he wants to be given the opportunity with the Silver Arrows.

The Responsibility of Leading Williams

Along with having an eye on the future, Russell is also this year tasked with having to lead the Williams team from a driver standpoint. In the absence of 35-year-old Kubica, the 22-year-old is now the leading figure in the paddock for the British racing team. Despite that fact that Nicholas Latifi is three years older than his teammate, 2020 will be the Canadian’s first season in F1, giving Russell more responsibility behind the scenes.

While Russell is realistic about Williams’ chances throughout the current season, he must lead by example when on track. Given the lack of pace that the nine-time constructors’ winning team seemingly has, the 22-year-old’s primary target must be to outperform his teammate. Although reliability hindered Russell in the opening race of the 2020 season, Latifi enjoyed an encouraging start, finishing in 11th place. That said, in qualifying, it’s clear that the Mercedes junior driver has the pace to compete as he claimed 17th place on the grid, ahead of his teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Kimi Raikkonen.

A Future World Champion?

Around the sport of F1, Russell is touted as being a future world champion. However, for that to happen sooner rather than later, he’d like to secure a spot in the race-winning Mercedes for 2021. While, of course, his opening few seasons in the sport will be a learning curve, the 22-year-old’s occasional criticisms of Williams showcases that he has his eyes set on being at the front of the grid instead of making up the numbers.

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