Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin has revealed when the team realised George Russell’s potential.
Russell originally joined forces with Mercedes in 2017, prior to his title-winning GP3 campaign.
The Briton rose through the junior ranks with support from the Brackley-based squad before making his F1 debut in 2019 with Williams as reigning F2 champion.
Russell had a handful of test outings with Mercedes prior to his debut, with Shovlin highlighting that it was clear from those drives that he had potential.
“I think when we first ran him in an F1 car, that was one of the post-season Abu Dhabi tests,” he told media including RacingNews365.
"Obviously, whatever you come from, it's a big jump.
"He’d come from F3 into that, and just in terms of throttle control, ability to look after the tyres, understanding what's important, consistency, the approach to starting.
"Then just chipping away at it without taking risks without making mistakes, you can normally see the good ones pretty early on. So, there was no doubt there."
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The breakthrough at Sakhir 2020
After spending almost two seasons at the back of the grid with Williams, Russell suddenly found himself with an opportunity to impress at Mercedes.
Russell was called upon to replace Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix after the latter contracted Covid-19.
Russell was in contention for the race victory throughout the race but a botched pit-stop and a late puncture denied him the chance to seal his first race win on his Mercedes debut.
Shovlin has said that it was the Bahrain outing that allowed Mercedes to understand Russell’s potential.
“For us, the bit where you realised he was pretty impressive was when we jumped him in when Lewis had Covid,” Shovlin added.
“He did a great job, a lot to take on, very little time to adapt to the team, the car. And you know, he's continuing to improve and get stronger.”