George Russell says he can take a more relaxed approach to the 2021 Formula 1 season as a result of his Mercedes drive last year, when he filled in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell was drafted in after Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19. The Williams regular went on to qualify just 0.026s behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas and looked set to win his first race in dominant fashion before a tyre mix up demoted him to the back. He went on to finish ninth to score his first ever world championship points.
Although it wasn’t a fairytale finish for the Briton, Russell believes it showed what he is capable of and means he can now approach 2021 with a “relaxed” attitude, knowing Mercedes bosses have seen what he can do.
“Up to this point in my career I’ve always been very pushy,” the 23-year-old said. “I was very pushy with Mercedes in the first place to get the opportunity to race in GP3, in Formula 2, to get myself into Formula 1.
“But I think I had such a unique opportunity last year in Bahrain that I’m in a very comfortable position.
“I think that race was massive for myself and it gives me the opportunity to sit back, relax and really focus on the driving and what will happen will happen.
“I’d like to think I showed what I can do in a front-running car. Mercedes are my mentors, my managers, and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes in 2022.
“But that opportunity for me was huge and perhaps I would have been going about it slightly differently [this year] if I hadn’t had that opportunity last year.”
Russell also responded to a comment from Williams CEO Jost Capito that he is hard to work with, which Russell believes was said in a positive manner.
“If you’re demanding, I guess it’s got to be in a constructive way, and I’m glad they see it that way,” he told the Express.
“I’m not easy to work with, I’m always pushing these guys for more in every single aspect.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s engineering, the designers, the aero guys, the marketing team, I’m always pushing for more to get the most out of everybody and that’s just the way I operate I guess.”