While George Russell certainly impressed during his brief Mercedes cameo last season in Bahrain, the young Williams driver insists he was nowhere near the limit of his capabilities given the short time he had to get adjusted to the car.
Many have pencilled in the British driver for one of the seats with the Silver Arrows next season, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas out of contract at the end of the season. A decision on Russell's future hasn't been made as of yet, though he's certainly seen his name mentioned with Mercedes quite a bit since his accident with Bottas at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Despite the mishap in Imola, Russell believes his performance in Bahrain last season, when he was on course to claim victory before he was hit by some bad luck, showed that he has what it takes to leave his mark at the sharp end of the grid.
“I managed to get that fantastic opportunity last year, but in Bahrain I thought I was not even close to the limits because I didn’t know the car," Russell told RacingNews365.com. "The set-up wasn’t designed for me, I was uncomfortable, I was in pain while driving. I just made the most of a difficult situation.
“I thought that was the absolute maximum potential given the experience, but nowhere near the potential what could have been, had that been a full season.
"I believe that I'm capable of winning races. I don't believe I'm at my maximum potential and I think I've got a long way to go. There's a lot for me to improve and I still think that there's a lot more I can bring to the table. But equally, I think I’m in the right machinery. I’d like to think I broke through that last year.”
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One thing the race in Bahrain showed Russell is that the psychological difficulties faced when driving at the front of the grid are much different from what he's experienced while driving with Williams.
“The joys of success are even greater and the downs of the disappointment are even greater, much deeper," Russell added. "That is probably the biggest thing I took away from that.
"I've had a relatively easy rise, been under the radar over the past two and a half years and never in the points. If I'm a little bit off the pace it goes a little bit unnoticed. If I have a great result, again, not overly noticed and you come away from most weekends relatively satisfied even though you know there could have been half a tenth more in it.
"At the Bahrain Grand Prix, for example, half a tenth more would have meant I was on pole position and my feeling on Saturday evening would have been different than it was."
In terms of what will happen in 2022, Russell is adamant he hasn't given much thought to what the future holds. However, he has every faith in Mercedes' plans for him.
"I've not really thought about that to be honest," said Russell. "I'm just going about my business as usual and what will come will come.
"Mercedes have always put their faith in me and everything's been on course. They signed me in 2016, put me in GP3 and the goal was to win it. Then it was F2, the goal was to win and you'll be in F1.
"The deal at the time was a three year deal so we're in our third season now. What will happen next year, time will only tell but they've had my back and faith in me since day one, and I continue to have my faith in them."