George Russell says he really enjoys receiving praise from top Formula 1 drivers, but treats the comments as “background noise” because he wants to prove himself on the track.
Since making his F1 debut with Williams in early 2019, Russell has never been overqualified by a teammate, with a head-to-head record of 35-0 following the Turkish Grand Prix.
Although Russell has yet to score a point in F1, his performances have garnered praise from several of his peers, including world champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
But Russell refuses to dwell too much on the positive hype surrounding his early life in F1, saying the greatest pressure to perform comes from himself and not from the expectations of others.
“Obviously I really appreciate those comments, without a shadow of a doubt,” said Russell when asked how Autosport impacted him.
“It’s almost background noise, really, because I know I have to keep playing week after week.
“As fantastic as it gets a pat on the back and praise from these guys, I have to back that up with the work I do on the track.
“I have always tried not to let such comments come to mind. I practice this sport for myself and my family.
“The greatest pressure I have is from myself and no one else.”
Russell has been in the Mercedes junior program since 2017 and is widely seen as a future successor to Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas in the German squad.
Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, contacted Russell after his crash behind the safety car at Imola to show his support for the youngster, saying: “It’s good to make mistakes and feel the pain.”
Asked by Autosport about the post, Hamilton said he wanted to make sure Russell was not fighting for the mistake.
“What he could have done [is] like looking at Alonso, a lot of drivers coming into one of the teams that are further back, have the opportunity to grow and improve, lead a team and make mistakes, ”said Hamilton.
“This year the way he’s handled everything and what he’s done with this car has been great to put it in Q2 quite often, and to really deliver great results.
“[I’m] really impressed with his racing gear and growth, and I really think he’s the future.
“There are several drivers who represent the future of the sport, but this is one of them that I’m really excited to see his progress.
“I have no doubt that he has the potential to become a future champion.”
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