New Mercedes signing George Russell is eagerly anticipating his first season with the team, and aims to be on the podium as quickly as the first race of the season.
Russell entered Formula 1 in 2019 with the Williams team and, following three impressive seasons – out-qualifying team-mates Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi 57 times in 59 races – has earned a spot at the serial constructors’ champions alongside seven-time champion Sir Lewis Hamilton.
In fact, the 23-year-old has already seen the limelight of a big outing in the Silver Arrow, filling in for his compatriot alongside Valtteri Bottas when Hamilton fell ill with COVID-19 in 2020.
He was marginally out-qualified by the Finn at the Sakhir Grand Prix, but took the lead off the start and looked set to record an astonishing first victory in his first Mercedes appearance, but a botched pit stop and a slow puncture saw him finish a dejecting ninth.
Now, with Bottas headed to Alfa Romeo having departed Mercedes at the end of 2021, the Briton has stepped up to replace the 32-year-old.
Doubt had been cast as to whether Hamilton will be on the grid this season following his controversial 2021 championship defeat to Max Verstappen, but his recent social media activity is an avid indication that he will remain to fight for a record eighth world championship.
While Russell’s challenge will be an enormous one, he does not see the 37-year-old as his racing idol, instead taking inspiration from the hero of the hour while he was growing up.
“I’d say my racing idol would be Michael Schumacher,” he said in a Mercedes team video.
It was a relatively easy decision to come to when asked about his most embarrassing moment behind the wheel of an F1 car, and he selected his collision with Bottas while trying to pass him in wet conditions at last season’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“Probably crashing into Valtteri in Imola, 2021,” he said.
Further, the one-time podium finisher at last season’s peculiar Belgian Grand Prix has no intention of hanging around this year, and was full of conviction when quizzed on how soon he reckoned he could finish in the top three for the eight-time constructors’ champions.
“Race one – Bahrain Grand Prix,” was his response.
Mercedes are to unveil their new car on 18 February – five days before the pre-season “shakedown” in Barcelona – while the new season kicks off on 20 March at the Bahrain Grand Prix.