George Russell insists he’s ready to take on the tough job of being Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes next year after “three years of working my way up”.
Mercedes has yet to confirm who will race alongside Hamilton next year, after the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion signed a new two-year deal earlier this month.
It’s widely believed the decision will be between Russell and Hamilton’s current team-mate Valtteri Bottas. With some lacklustre performances from the Finn this season, the scales have tipped in Russell’s direction.
The 23-year-old has spent three seasons with Williams at the very back of the grid, but has impressed week in, week out, making his first Q3 appearance for the British team last time out in Austria.
Those three years have been leading up to a chance with a top team and Russell feels the time is right to make the step forward.
“I haven’t worked my entire life to get to Formula 1 to be battling for last place,” Russell said in a podcast for the British GP. “I’m here to win, I want to be fighting for victories, that’s what I love, so it’s tough.
“I hope in the near future, no matter who I’m racing for, I’ll get the opportunity and I’ll keep on working as hard as I can to get that, because I just want to be standing on that top step of the podium.”
When it was put to him how exciting it would be to go up against Hamilton in an all-British driver line-up, Russell added: “I guess, hypothetically, that could be exciting to some, especially British fans. But I won’t talk about hypotheticals just yet. But as I said, just want to be fighting for victories, fighting for world championships.
“I feel ready. I’ve spent three years working my way up from the back to the midfield, performing at my absolute maximum, trying to get the most out of my team around me. And I think we’ve done a really good job and a really solid job.
“But it is different when you are fighting for victories and fighting for championships, as I experienced in my junior career. That’s what I live for and hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later. I got a small taste last year, but I want to taste it week in, week out.”
With a major rules reset next year, there’s always a risk that a team that was once competitive may no longer be in that position, but Russell knows it’s impossible to predict how things will turn out and whether staying at Williams could prove to be the better choice.
“Making a good decision at this stage is impossible you know,” he added. “You look back at Lewis in 2012 when he left McLaren to join Mercedes, everyone thought he was crazy, but then you go three years later and McLaren are last and Mercedes are winning every single race. You could say that’s a great decision, but did he know it was going to be like that. Even if he says he does, I don’t believe him. There’s no way anyone could have predicted that.
“Fingers crossed wherever I am next year we have a competitive car and out of the options available next year I will find myself in a competitive car, regardless of what colour that car may be.”