Russell warned ‘honeymoon period’ with Mercedes will abruptly end ahead of Australian GP

George Russell moved up to Mercedes to replace the Alfa Romeo-bound Valtteri Bottas over the winter.

Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard has revealed that his opinion of George Russell has not changed since before the season, and he is a fan of his compatriot’s performances since he joined Mercedes.

Russell was fielded in to replace Valtteri Bottas after securing four points finishes in a below-par Williams in 2021, with one of those arriving in the form of a podium finish at the bizarre Belgian Grand Prix after a stupendous qualifying lap.

The 24-year-old had been part of the Mercedes junior programme since 2017 – the same year Bottas himself arrived from Williams – so he has an intimate knowledge of the team and the personnel he is working with this season.

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He got off to a perhaps rocky start to his Mercedes career in Bahrain this year when he qualified ninth, a second behind fifth-place team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but he recovered to end the race fourth.

He would then return the favour by going eight tenths of a second faster than the 37-year-old in Saudi Arabia a week later as Hamilton was knocked out in Q1, and he finished the race fifth while the seven-time champion salvaged a point in tenth.

Overall, Russell’s performance thus far in 2022 has been impressive in the eyes of Coulthard.

“I’ve been super-impressed. For me, he’s a brilliant all-round package,” he told The Mirror.

“He has speed, he has excellent communication skills; he’s a modern version of a top professional racing driver.

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“I thought that before the season started and I’ve seen nothing since to change my mind.”

However, the 13-time race winner with McLaren and Williams warns against complacency, maintaining that the high expectations of Russell will begin to intensify as time wears on.

“The honeymoon period where you can do no wrong changes quickly, particularly when there’s an expectation that – given the car you are driving – you should be in the top three,” he added.

Mercedes’ performance has been surprisingly poor so far this year after the turn of the new technical regulations, and Coulthard encourage Russell and Hamilton to “be the voice” to help the team turn their fortunes around as they seek to get to the bottom of the chassis and floor issues that have been adversely affecting them.