George Russell makes big claim about Lewis Hamilton wrecking Max Verstappen’s F1 career

Max Verstappen replaced Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull when he was just 18 years old.

George Russell has admitted that reigning World Champion Max Verstappen “could have damaged his career” had he joined Mercedes when he was still a teenager, with Lewis Hamilton having been incredibly dominant at the time.

The start of Russell’s career at the pinnacle of motorsport was certainly carried out in a traditional route for a young driver, with the 25-year-old having spent three seasons at Williams.

As a result, the start of his F1 career was spent at the back of the grid; however, this allowed him to build in confidence, rather than be thrown straight into the deep end.

This is a very different route to the likes of Hamilton, whose F1 debut in 2007 came at McLaren.

Want to work in Formula 1? Browse the latest F1 job vacancies

Something which has been noted about Russell’s F1 career so far is that he’s been able to extract the most from any car, given that he learnt how to do this at Williams, where pushing the car to the absolute limit was essential.

Russell was certainly able to extract more performance from Mercedes’ W13 than Hamilton at times last season, with many putting this down to his time at Williams.

Despite this skill of being able to extract performance from a bad car, Russell isn’t sure if his three years at Williams has given him an advantage over drivers who joined F1 in quicker teams.

“I think that’s something you would never know,” Russell told Square Mile.

Article continues below

“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.”

One thing Russell does think, though, is that Verstappen’s career would look very different had he joined Mercedes in 2016 instead of Red Bull, with the Dutchman having been promoted from Toro Rosso (known now as AlphaTauri) to Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix that year.

With that in mind, Russell seemingly believes that it doesn’t necessarily matter what team a young driver joins, with it more being about the strength of their team-mate.

READ: Sergio Perez at risk of being stripped of points by the FIA

“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.”