George Russell’s 2020 season was, in the end, a mixed bag. He spent most of the year just outside the points with Williams, before being given an opportunity with Mercedes in Sakhir and looking set to win the race.
However, it was not to be, as a combination of a team mistake during a pitstop and a late slow puncture cost him victory.
Looking back on last year, Russell said he believes he “drastically” improved his race craft as a result of the intense scraps he had, particularly with four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
“I’ve improved as a race driver, drastically, because we were in wheel-to-wheel battles all season with Alfa Romeo, Haas, and often with Vettel,” Russell said in an interview with Motorsport.com.
“I was talking about it recently, and Sebastian, he is probably the driver who I battled with the most this season.
“When I think back to the Nurburgring, to Mugello, to Austria at the start of the year. Even Abu Dhabi, [there were] a few laps battling. Portimao, maybe? Imola, maybe?
“We’ve just been together on track the whole season, which, if you told me that the middle of last year, I’d have thought you were absolutely bonkers.
“So that experience, wheel-to-wheel racing in a Formula 1 car, has helped me so much – because it is different. It’s so different to the junior formulas, purely because the downforce is so sophisticated.
“When you lose downforce, the car transforms. And learning how to cope with that and deal with that has been great for me.
“Obviously, it gave me that opportunity when I jumped in the Merc to really be on it when I was coming back through the field,” Russell added.
Despite some people calling for the Mercedes F1 Team to give George Russell a full-time drive in 2021, the young Brit will almost certainly spend next year with Williams despite Lewis Hamilton yet to ink a new deal with the Silver Arrows.
However, there is a real possibility that he will be given an opportunity with Mercedes in 2022, so long as he continues to impress next season.