1992 Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell insists that Mercedes F1 newbie George Russell is doing a “great job”, with the Brit currently ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship.
Russell has adapted to life with the Silver Arrows extremely quickly and looks set to be the team’s lead driver once Hamilton retires from the sport.
The former Williams Racing driver hasn’t played second fiddle at the eight-time defending Constructors’ Champions, something many expected whilst Hamilton is alongside him.
The story of the season so far has been the opposite, with Russell having been completely dominant over his seven-time World Champion, until the past few rounds.
Russell had been dominant over Hamilton until the Canadian Grand Prix, where the 37-year-old started a run of five consecutive podium finishes.
Despite this, Russell managed to get more out of the W13 when it was at its weakest, most notably at the Saudi Arabian and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix’s.
On these occasions, Russell battled towards the front, whilst Hamilton struggled to make the points, something he failed to do at Imola.
Russell is currently fourth in the Drivers’ Championship on 158-points, 12 more than his team-mate who sits in P6.
Mansell is a huge fan of Russell and Lando Norris, who currently sits seventh in the standings for the McLaren F1 Team; however, the ex-F1 driver is fully convinced that Hamilton is “taking it easy”.
“I like both George Russell and Lando Norris,” said Mansell in an interview with Adrian Flux.
“I think the opportunity that George has cast on the fact that Lewis hasn’t decided to dust off his right foot yet.”
While laughing, Mansell added: “I think he’s taking it easy.
“He [Russell] is doing a great job and I think Lando when the car is performing, he’s put some great results in.”
This season has seen a number of teams struggle for consistent results, with McLaren being strong at some races before randomly dipping in others.
It’s been the same for Mercedes, who at times have been able to keep tabs on both Red Bull Racing and Ferrari; however, there have been times this year when they’ve not even been able to keep within a minute of the leading teams.
“I think what we’re seeing is jockeying for position with the constructors, how competitive from one race to another they are,” Mansell added.
“And you know, one minute you think, for instance, McLaren are up there again, they’re going really well. And then the next race they’re back down here.
“I think at the front, you’ve got the three protagonists at the front again, you’ve got, Ferrari, you’ve got Red Bull, and you’ve got Mercedes.
“And you might have one other occasionally jockeying for trying to get on the podium, but it’s those three main manufacturers that have got it taped.”
Despite closer racing this season, Norris is the only person to have stepped foot on the podium from a team other than Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.
The Brit claimed third at Imola after an excellent drive; however, Mansell believes that the days of smaller teams achieving results like a podium are becoming a thing of the past.
“When I was driving with the late, great Colin Chapman, Colin took me under his wing, like a father figure for me,” said Mansell.
“And I’ll never forget, in the early 80s, he was saying he runs a whole team of personnel, it was 100 people going to all the races around the world, paying the salaries of the drivers and everybody, it was certainly less than three million pounds a year.
“The whole face of Formula One has changed, and unless you have a major manufacturer behind you, the entrepreneurs of the past, they don’t exist anymore, you have to be a big manufacturer spending lots of money.
“In Formula One, to catch up, when you fall behind the curve to be competitive, you have to almost spend more and work harder and jump that curve just to actually try and catch up and compete on the same level. And so, it’s really tough for the lower teams who don’t have the budgets.”