From asking Lewis Hamilton for an autograph to beating him on the track: the story of George Russell, the young wonder who surprises Formula 1

On February 18, 2009, the day George Russell met and asked Lewis Hamilton for his autograph (The Grosby Group)

In 2009, an eleven-year-old English boy named George Russell achieved one of his dreams and got the autograph of Lewis Hamiltonthen champion of Formula 1. It was meeting that “super hero”, as he later described him. But that heavenly figure became a reality over time and this year they are teammates. Mercedes. The subject did not remain in that anecdote in a karting track, since that boy lowered his idol from the poster and today surpassed him on the track, hand in hand with similar cars.

Russell was born on February 15, 1998 in King’s Lynn, a port town in Norfolk, eastern England. He is the youngest son of Stevea vegetable merchant, and allison, a hairdresser. Her brothers are Expensive and the highest calling Benjywho, according to George, is his inspiration since he was the first in the family to turn to motorsports and made his way into karting, although he later gave up.

Steve sold everything and accompanied his youngest son and was his mechanic. George started karting at the age of eight and in 2012 he was European champion in KF3 of the International Karting Commission of the International Automobile Federation (CIK-FIA). In 2014 he was British Formula 4 champion.

George Russell
In 2010 he visited the McLaren base and met Lewis Hamilton again (@lewishamilton)

In 2015 he started racing in Formula 3 and was second in the F3 Masters in Zandvoort, the same one he won Norbert Fontana in 1995. at that height Toto Wolff, team leader Mercedes, He had his eye on him and George revealed that he turned down his proposal and explained how he ended up on the German team’s driver program. “I was already having conversations with Toto and Mercedes before joining Carlin and Volkswagen,” he recalled in dialogue with the podcast My Big Break from Motorsport Magazineand. “In fact, he had a deal on the table to have almost the same backing from Mercedes that he had from Volkswagen. But because there was no open opportunity at PREMA, the next team I would have had to join would be a German team called Mücke Motorsport, which I felt for my first F3 season would not be as suitable for me as a British one.” . At the age of 17, he was already clear about what was best for his career and by mail he replied to Wolff: “I really appreciate the meeting and thanks for all your advice etc. Just to let you know, I’m actually joining Carlin. and Volkswagen as opposed to Mücke Motorsport and Mercedes because I think it’s better for my career.”. And Toto replied: “I think you’re making the wrong decision, but let’s stay in touch”. You had to say no to Mercedes, the team that was already crushing at the beginning of the hybrid era of F1 with combustion and electric engines. But the British boy showed what he was made of.

Until an incredible story came that defined his entry to Mercedes. There was a test of the German Tourism Championship, better known as DTM. At that time three of the German giants were participating, Mercedes, Audi and BMW, a brand that offered Russell a test. It was in December 2015 in Jerez: “It was a rookie test and everyone could see the times, it wasn’t public, but in private you could see that we had the fastest time of the day. There was an engineer who had moved from BMW to Mercedes, and I think potentially he was quite influential in saying ‘this guy was very fast and you need to sign him before BMW does’. I had the contract on the table at BMW almost ready to sign and that’s when I got the phone call from Gwen Lagrue (Mercedes talent recruiter), who was actually sitting in the bathroom at the circuit and said to me: ‘I want to talk to you about joining Mercedes.’ It was absolutely clear from Mercedes and he told me, ‘if you sign with BMW, there won’t be an option with Mercedes in the future‘. So the deal on the table for Mercedes was to race in Formula 3 for one more year with a Mercedes-backed team, which was Hitech, and do all the simulator work for Mercedes F1. And they made it clear to me:We’ll see how you’re doing, how you’re performing on and off the track, and we’ll make a decision in October. There is a possibility that you stay or not. But if you sign the BMW contract, we’re leaving.’ I signed with them and that’s where it all started”.

He joined the Mercedes program and with the Hitech F3 team, and finished third in 2016. The following year he was champion of GP3 (at that time second division prior to F1) and because he was a Mercedes driver he started driving racing cars. F1 of motor client teams of the house of Stuttgart. He was first a test driver for Force India (current Aston Martin) and then went to Williams, where he made his debut as a starter in the Máxima in 2019 and filled his parents with pride: “Both were absolutely over the moon,” he said. the. “I think my mother’s exact words were: ‘Oh, damn.’ My father teared up and said that he had been waiting for this day for 20 years. Then I realized how important it was.” He met the legendary Sir Frank Williams, he ran his first races in a team that dominated F1, but by that point not even the ashes were left for his serious economic and financial problems. He did what he could, but the environment saw the two main virtues of him: fast and neat. It’s weird that you end up with a damaged car.

George Russell
At the time of karting with Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon (@georgerussell63)

The kid’s dream.

In 1996 the first edition of the Formula Kart Stars was held, an event founded by the former head of McLaren, Ron Dennis, with the aim of bringing the public closer to karting and promoting talents. His first winner was an 11-year-old boy named Lewis Hamilton. With the same age as him, on February 18, 2009, Russell emulated him on the Lincolnshire track and that day Hamilton appeared, brand new F1 world champion, and who at that time was the youngest driver to win the crown. He was a true celebrity for the British, as they had their first champion since Damon Hill in 1996. Due to his youth and the impact that Lewis generated as the first black driver in the Maxima, a revolution was generated. Among those present was little George, who went with his folders and books and asked his idol for an autograph.

It was like meeting a superhero”, he admitted in a chat with SkyF1. “When I met him I thought, I want to be like him and win world championships. It was a really special day. When you are a child at that age and you know an F1 driver, you don’t think those people are human. It is quite strange to remember something from when you were 11 years old, but that moment I remember very well, ”she added.

On December 6, 2020, he fulfilled another of his dreams as he drove Hamilton’s car, who was absent in Bahrain due to COVID-19. Russell replaced him and with the champion’s car he fought for victory in the race, but a strategic error by his team and a puncture prevented him from winning. In 2021 he scored points again for Williams (8th in Hungary and 2nd in Belgium) and before the end of the season he was confirmed as Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes. “It’s quite surreal to be aligned with him“, he claimed.

George Russell
Along with the remembered Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire. George debuted as a starter in F1 with the historic Grove team (@georgerussell63)

“I think it is very important as teammates to work together to push the team forward. I would also say that Lewis and I we are at very different stages of our career, which I think also helps. I have great respect for him. I don’t see any problem at all. Naturally, I believe in myself and have high aspirations, but I still know how difficult it is going to be. Lewis is a seven-time champion for a reason, and I’m probably in one of the luckiest positions on the F1 grid to learn from,” he stressed.

While he received the blessing of Hamilton: “George is a pilot incredibly talentedclearly. Is humble. I believe that has great focus, and being British I imagine it probably helps in terms of communication. He is one of the members of the future of motorsport, so I think he has already shown incredible driving so far. I am sure that he will continue to grow, where better to do it than in a great team like this?”

In eight disputed dates, although Mercedes no longer has the car to beat and is one step behind Red Bull and Ferrari, Russell was more than his “superhero”. This year in the race (not counting the Imola Sprint) he always finished in the top five and achieved seven better positions against one of Hamilton. This is the picture of results between them up to and including Azerbaijan:

In races Russell wins 7 to 1:

Russell: 4th, 5th, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 3rd, 5th, 3rd.

Hamilton: 3rd, 10th, 4th, 13th, 6th, 5th, 8th, 4th.

In classifications Russell wins 5 to 3:

Russell: 9th, 6th, 6th, 11th, 12th, 4th, 6th, 5th.

Hamilton: 5th, 16th, 5th, 13th, 6th, 6th, 8th, 7th.

In the 23 free tests (there was no FP3 in Imola)

Russell: was fastest in 15 runs

Hamilton: Was faster by 8 runs.

Positions and points in the championship:

Russell: 4th with 99 points.

Hamilton: 6th with 62 points.


Russell: 3

Hamilton: 1

George Russell
With his father Steve, who sold everything and was his mechanic at the time of karting (@georgerussell63)

Although there is an issue that cannot be ignored and it is the rebounds that current F1 cars suffer, especially the Mercedes W13. From the return of the ground effect that implies that the aerodynamic load (attachments) forces downwards and the car is glued to the ground, the rapid entry and exit of the air generates this reaction in the vehicle that produces blows to the drivers’ backs. Hamilton, who was more affected by this issue than Russell, after the last race in Azerbaijan stated that “George doesn’t have any back problems today. But hers is like a back ten years younger than mine”.

This inconvenience is added to the turbulence with the intake of air that the rear of Mercedes cars suffers due to the undulation in their pontoons. The German team engineers worked to correct it, there were improvements in Spain, but the car still doesn’t respond as it should. This is added to the advance that Red Bul and Ferrari had both in the aerodynamics and in their engines, especially the Scuderia, which was competitive again and was also demonstrated by the leap in quality of the squads that run with their drivers, Haas and Alfa Romeo.

George Russell
About a jewel run by Juan Manuel Fangio, the 1955 Mercedes W196. The image is from the Goodwood Festival, the most important classic car and motorcycle festival in the world (@GeorgeRussell63)

Friends are friends.

In his beginnings of karting he became friends with Alex Alban (26 years old) who keeps an anecdote on a bike ride: “I would say that George is not the best cyclist in the world; I’ve ridden a bike more than him so I told him: ‘George, take the good bike, I’ll keep the one that doesn’t have rear brakes.’ We went to a new place, which can always be a bit dangerous. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were going through a horse track and when we got to an obstacle I wanted to brake, but the brakes failed, I jumped and fell on a big branch. I took a flight, landed on my collarbone and broke it,” he recalled with Motorsport Magazine.

Albon lost his place in F1 in 2021, but his friend – in a way – repaid him for having used the bike with brakes in good condition and paved the way for his return since Russell moved to Mercedes and a vacancy was left at Williams and the Thai replaced him.

In 2022 both share the circuits and are part of the new guard together with the current champion and championship leader, Max Verstappen (24), charles leclerc (24), lando norris (22), Stephen Ocon (25), Lance Stroll (23), Pierre Gasley (26), Mike Schumacher (23) and yuki tsunoda (22). They will face each other this weekend on the ninth date in Canada.

George Russell
With his partner Carmen Montero Mundt, at the premiere of James Bond “No time to die” (@F1)

On stage George is also seen accompanied by his partner, the Spaniard of German descent, Carmen Montero Mundt, who moved to London to study and has a degree in business administration. One of her first public appearances was in September 2021 at the James Bond premiere, “No Time to Die.”

Before the start of the season he had a gesture towards Michael Schumacher and as a way of respect he changed the decoration of his helmet, which stopped being totally red and became black. The Kaiser wore red on his return to F1 from 2010 to 2012. He did not lose his head either and is usually respectful of the media and always ready with fans who have the illusion of meeting his idols, as happened to him. him with Hamilton.

It is that he is still the same boy who started from the bottom and whose talent and perseverance responded to the sacrifice of his father who gave up his vegetable trade to accompany him. His son George was not dazzled to have his greatest idol by his side and for now he has surpassed him in results. Russell is one of the best drivers in F1 today and a potential future world champion.

Celebrating his third podium in Azerbaijan in 2022 (REUTERS / Leonhard Foeger)
Celebrating his third podium in Azerbaijan in 2022 (REUTERS / Leonhard Foeger) (LEONHARD FOEGER /)


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