George Russell says he’s banishing any thoughts on his 2022 Mercedes prospects as he heads into the new Formula 1 season because he knows his situation can change quickly.
The Briton is a clear candidate to move to Mercedes in 2022 after an impressive start for the team replacing Lewis Hamilton at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
But despite what’s up for grabs if he impresses for Williams this year, he says the roller coaster he experienced last season to get his first chance at Mercedes shows why there’s no reason to get carried away. too much with its outlook right now.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with TBEN, Russell said he doesn’t think of any goals he needs to hit in 2021 to please Mercedes bosses.
“No, they didn’t say what to do,” Russell said. “Right now I’m just respectful to everyone at Williams and will give my all for this team, as they have for me for the past two years.
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“I don’t like to think about the future. This sport is changing incredibly fast, people’s perception of pilots – your reputation [can change fast]. And external factors, as we have seen [can come into play]. “
Russell says his attitude towards the future was forced on him last year when he clinched the plum Mercedes record in Bahrain and came close to winning after leading a pitstop error and a late puncture relegating him to ninth place.
He says even getting the chance to drive on time for Mercedes hadn’t been on his radar last year, because Williams’ previous management had always been so against it.
“No one could have predicted what happened,” he said.
“Telling me in the middle of the year that I would have been in the lead and I should have won a race this year and started on the front row – because I didn’t even think it would be possible to to be … I didn’t even think it was possible to have a chance for Mercedes, as a reserve driver.
“We had talked about this in the past and it was a ‘no.’ But luckily the new owners were very open, and they wanted to give me this opportunity. Potentially, to see how I would perform too.
“So I didn’t even think about that possibility [was realistic] even if Lewis or Valtteri [Bottas] miss a race. I didn’t think it would be possible anyway. “
Despite Russell’s disappointment that he lost on a first F1 victory in Sakhir’s race without his fault, he is well aware of the positive perception of his performance.
“It doesn’t eat into me on the inside, as I see the race was almost a victory in itself with the way everything went,” he said when asked how he had. managed the events.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell myself anyway to overcome the disappointment of losing!”
“I think the pitstop fiasco almost gave me this opportunity to go out there and show what I can do in very difficult circumstances – when the pressure is on.
“We had the race well and truly under control, and then suddenly I’m back in fifth and have my teammate in front of me in the same car as me, which I knew was going to be incredibly difficult to overtake. “