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Russell: Verstappen joining Hamilton at Mercedes could have damaged his career

George Russell spent the first three years of his F1 career at the back of the grid with Williams, but remains grateful that he wasn't thrown in at the deep end too soon, something that he believes can potentially damage a driver's career.

George Russell believes that Max Verstappen could have potentially damaged his career if he had joined a team such as Mercedes and had a teammate at the level of Lewis Hamilton. Russell spent the first three years of his time in F1 at the back of the field with Williams before making the switch to the Silver Arrows for 2022. When asked by Square Mile if having this experience might give him an advantage over drivers who have stepped into a quicker car sooner, Russell explained: "I think that's something you would never know. "It's something I tell myself because I like to be glass half full and I want to take the positive out of every situation. But I could sit here and say I lost three years of my career because I was in a car that was right at the back of a grid and I couldn’t fight for wins. "Or you can see all the positives from my time there. I look at those years now thinking, 'Yeah, perhaps I did learn more racing at the back compared to what some of my rivals may have done being thrown in the deep end from the beginning.' "Some drivers have been thrown in at the deep end early and it's hurt their careers."

Verstappen versus Hamilton

Verstappen's career ascent took a different path to Russell's, with the Dutchman promoted from Toro Rosso to Red Bull in 2016 whilst still a teenager. However, Russell questions if the two-time World Champion might have had a more difficult time if he had joined Mercedes. "For example, Max Verstappen obviously got his promotion after 18 months, but perhaps if he went into a team like Mercedes against Lewis Hamilton at the peak of his powers, it could have damaged his career," the Briton said. "So you’ve got to look at it from both sides, and for sure Max was a greater driver after three or four years under his belt compared to where he was after 18 months under his belt. "If you're going up against a guy who’s absolutely in his prime and dominating in the car that he's so used to, maybe he wouldn't be in the position he is today."

Russell happy at Mercedes

Bearing that hypothetical situation in mind, Russell is happy with how things unfolded for him. "I’ve got to be grateful for the people who have advised me and helped me and nurtured me to this position," he added. "In those three years that passed by, perhaps I could have been fighting a bit higher up the grid, but if I wasn't in a Mercedes, I wouldn't have been fighting for championships. So what's the difference for me? "At the end of the day, I want to win championships and if I was at the back of the grid or let's say if I was fighting for top sevens, to be honest there's no difference. Ultimately, I'm happy with where I am right now."

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