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George Russell

Russell: Being behind Norris and Albon on F1 debut 'difficult to digest'

Despite finishing ahead of them in Formula 2, George Russell found himself far behind rivals Lando Norris and Alex Albon when the trio made their F1 debut in 2019. However, the Mercedes driver feels that he was able to benefit from the situation.

Russell Mexico
To news overview © XPBimages

George Russell admits that finishing each race far behind his former rivals Lando Norris and Alex Albon at the start of his F1 career was "difficult to digest".

The three drivers all made their debut in 2019 after competing against each other in Formula 2, with Russell having won the championship in that category in 2018.

However, Russell found himself at the back of the field in Formula 1 in a struggling Williams, while Norris and Albon were both regularly scoring points for McLaren and Toro Rosso/Red Bull respectively.

"That was a really unique season for my first year in Formula 1 – joining Williams, a team that was on the brink of bankruptcy," Russell told The High Performance Podcast.

"It was a team [that], every single race weekend, was racing to survive. It wasn't racing to perform, the team was racing to survive and [there were] 800 people's jobs at stake.

"There was no doubt, when I got to the first race in Australia, [I thought] I'm here in Formula 1, almost one dream accomplished, and got on track and we're four seconds off the pace.

"The car's falling apart, and we're being lapped two or three times – [you] kind of think to yourself, is this the dream? But I think I've always had quite a rational view to things.

"[However], seeing Alex in Red Bull scoring podiums and being the man to a degree, and Lando equally always in the points, that was sort of difficult to digest, because I've just come from Formula 2 where I beat them."

			© Williams
	© Williams

How Russell took opportunity from struggles

When asked how he dealt with this, Russell explained that he was able to see an opportunity that was not as readily available to Norris and Albon.

"I thought that, even though they're finishing in the points and they're scoring podiums, I'm not here to score points or podiums, I'm here to win and I want to win," the Briton said.

"Even though they were finishing ahead of me, we're all going through this journey together, learning. I was part of Mercedes and I felt like my time will come.

"So I think, from a difficult situation, you've got to try and look at the positives from it. I was driving at the back of a grid, kind of under the radar.

"I was making a few mistakes that season, but not many people noticed because the spotlight wasn't on me. The spotlight was on the guys at the front [and], equally, the spotlight was on Lando and Alex.

"If ever they made a mistake, the whole world knew about it, so I saw this as an opportunity.

"[I thought], I'm in Formula 1, going to 21 different countries, 21 different races, different circuits. This is my opportunity to learn and perhaps try things that, for example, Alex and Lando didn't have the opportunity to because the spotlight was on every single weekend."

Racing at 'every end of the spectrum'

After three years at Williams, Russell became a full-time Mercedes driver in 2022 and went on to claim his first F1 victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old believes that racing at both the front and back of the field has been a beneficial experience that some of his rivals have not had.

"I never want to look back and say things should have been different," Russell continued.

"I think, every single opportunity, every single year, whether it's a good year or a bad year, adds to your development and it made me who I am.

"If I was in a Mercedes, fighting for victories, I wouldn't have had those experiences, and I have probably been through, in that regard, maybe more than what Alex or Lando has.

"Lando has been at McLaren now for five years. He's been fighting for the odd podium or pole position for five years now, whereas I've been on every end of the spectrum, and you've got to see that as an advantage.

"He hasn't been right at the back of the grid. Equally, he's not been right at the front of the grid in McLaren. It's through no fault of his own, Lando is an exceptional driver. But, that's an advantage I've got to take from that."

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