George Russell has described the chance to go up against Lewis Hamilton as a “win-win” situation for him at this stage of his career.
The Williams driver made it through to the last round of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix for the first time in his Formula 1 career, with the exception of when he sat in for Hamilton at Sakhir last year..
Russell is considered favourite to take over the second seat at Mercedes next season, now that Hamilton has signed a contract extension with the team taking him through to the end of 2023.
- Read also: Russell not ‘disheartened’ by losing P10 to ‘flying’ Alonso
“I’m really pleased to see Lewis staying in the sport,” Russell told Motorsport.com this week. “He’s obviously a worldwide superstar, and still performing at an exceptional level.
“He’s like a fine wine, he keeps getting better with age,” Russell added. “Max and Red Bull seem very strong, but I’m sure Lewis is going to be pushing the whole way.
“If Lewis wouldn’t be on the grid next year, it would be a shame,” he insisted. “There would be one of the greatest of all-time not on the grid.”
Russell added that he was delighted “to be racing against the best drivers in the world.”
“I want to compete against the best people in the world, which I think, to be honest, on the grid right now, we’ve got a very good group of drivers who deserve to be here.
“There is no doubt that Lewis has probably had the best car over the last few years, but in tricky circumstances he’s the one who doesn’t drop the ball,” he told Autocar.
“The best drivers often find themselves in the best car,” he continued. “[But] he’s the one who can sometimes pull something out of the bag.
“It goes hand in hand: if you’re a good driver, you can often pull more from the car, but if the car is good, that enhances the driver as well. The package between them has been pretty formidable.”
As for a decision about his own future, Russell said that he “wasn’t pressurising anybody” and was confident that Mercedes knew where to find him if a seat at Brackley opened up.
“I just want to do the talking on the track and just focus on circuit, because I know if I do the job on the track everything will sort itself out.
“Mercedes know me so well throughout all the years, and I’m in contact with them daily, as it has been for the last three years,” he added. “They’ll get it done, when they believe it’s the right time, whichever way they decide to go.”
“Everyone wants to go up against the best driver,” he added. “Everyone believes in themselves. But for me I’d love that challenge because the pressure would be off and I’d find myself in a win-win scenario.
“I’d go in with that mentality if I ever found myself up against one of the best drivers of all time. You have got nothing to lose – which I think is great really.”
Russell pointed out that Sergio Perez was currently in the same ideal situation at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen.
“He’s got no pressure because he’s got nothing to lose,” he suggested. “So you go out there and enjoy it, and show them what you can do.”
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