George Russell: top five F1 highlights at 100 races20 October 2023
In 2023, George Russell is an established front runner, and an integral part of the Mercedes F1 machine, who regularly challenges his seven-time World Champion team mate Lewis Hamilton. With that reputation, it’s hard to believe that the King’s Lynn native will reach only his 100th race milestone at the 2023 United States Grand Prix.
Russell has achieved a lot during his short time in F1, from being branded the Bahrain super sub and the ensuing rollercoaster weekend that followed to emotional moments with Williams, as well as the more recent accolades he’s garnered under the Toto Wolff-led Mercedes outfit. We thought now was the perfect time to look back at some of George’s best moments to date in F1.
2020 Sakhir Grand Prix: Bahrain super subAfter testing positive for Covid-19, Hamilton was ruled out of the Sakhir Grand Prix race weekend and so, Russell was borrowed from Williams, and installed into the Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance. He was immediately up to speed, and went fastest in the first two practice sessions before qualifying just three-hundredths behind established Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
Starting alongside Bottas, Russell was on the attack straight away, snatching the lead from the Finn into Turn 1. As he serenely sprinted away out front, Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc got tangled up in an incident at Turn 3 resulting in a DNF for the Ferrari and Red Bull. From then on, George pulled away from the sister Mercedes and looked to be a safe bet for victory, that was until a Safety Car deployment on Lap 63 and a tyre mismatch at his pitstop which meant he needed to pit again the following lap.
With the correct tyres finally on the #63 car, Russell scythed his way back through the field, moving from fifth back past his team mate and then up to second by Lap 77 of 87. As he closed in on race leader Perez, he was called in once again, this time for a rear-left puncture that ultimately sealed his fate. Eventually finishing ninth, he took his first points in F1 but was cruelly denied the opportunity to take a deserved maiden victory.
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix: first points for Williams
Two and a half years of patience finally paid off for Russell at the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2021, scoring his first points with the Grove-based outfit. In one of the more unique race starts in the modern era, five cars were taken out during multiple incidents at Turn 1. From there, things got even stranger as a grid-based restart would see Hamilton line up alone behind the five red lights with everyone else piling into the pits.
Russell emerged in second place, but having gained the positions during the confusion of the early pit stops, he handed the places back. Now in eighth – and with his team mate Nicholas Latifi running in third – the #63 driver quickly identified the significance of the opportunity and offered to sacrifice his own strategy for the benefit of the team in a showing of selflessness rarely seen in modern-day sport: "If you need to compromise my race to help Nicky, do it. Prioritise Nicky." Russell eventually finished eighth with Latifi seventh securing an emotional double-points finish for Williams.
2021 Belgian Grand Prix: Russell bags front row in wet weather qualifying
The following race, the Williams driver impressed once again with an astonishing showing at a typically wet Spa-Francorchamps. This was no fluke lap that materialised from nowhere though, Russell was at the sharp end for each of the three qualifying sessions, and snatched provisional pole in the closing stages of Q3 before Max Verstappen relegated him to second.
A contentious event in anyone’s book, the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix itself ran for just two laps behind the Safety Car before a result was announced. Under strange circumstances, George took his first podium in F1 and Williams’ first podium since the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
2022 Hungarian Grand Prix: maiden pole position
Having made the switch to a full-time Mercedes race seat, it didn’t take Russell long to start threatening the top spots on a regular basis. On a weekend that favoured the Ferraris, Mercedes turned the tide when it reached crunch time in qualifying. Q1 saw Hamilton top the timesheets with Russell close behind in second and after a slight dip in form during Q2, Russell rediscovered that blistering pace to take pole ahead of the scarlet cars.
Russell was harried by the Ferrari duo through the early exchanges but managed to hold the lead through the first stint. With the initial stops completed, Leclerc closed in, and Russell conceded the lead at the start of Lap 31. With the resurgent Red Bull of Verstappen coming back through and a Ferrari strategy blunder, the order was shaken out through the middle section of the race and Russell was back into second with 15 laps remaining. With just five laps to go, Hamilton came past on the Soft tyres displacing George onto the final podium step. Although the race didn’t quite play out in his favour, the Hungarian Grand Prix marked a significant milestone in Russell’s career.
2022 Brazilian Grand Prix: unstoppable in Sao Paulo Sprint
Later that season, a mixed conditions qualifying put George on a trajectory for his most memorable F1 moment yet. Intermittent rainfall throughout the three sessions meant all 20 drivers were pushed to their limits. In Q3, it was crucial to get a lap time set on slicks as the rain intensified. Russell’s first effort placed him third, but shortly after he spun into the gravel at Descida do Lago. With the red flags waving and the session neutralised, the worsening conditions that followed secured him the second-row grid slot.
In the Sprint Race, George got past pole-sitter Magnussen on Lap 4 and set about chasing down leader Verstappen. With the Mercedes seemingly on rails, George wouldn’t be denied the victory and on his third and final attempt to take the lead, he claimed P1 on Lap 15. From that point on, he wouldn’t be challenged and took his first F1 win in the Sprint.
In the Grand Prix proper, Russell led from the Mercedes front-row lockout and began building a margin to Hamilton. With the squabbling pair of Verstappen and Hamilton tumbling down the order, the #63 driver was given some space to breathe for much of the race’s duration, until a late Safety Car reset the order and allowed Hamilton to pressure his team mate from a slim one-second deficit for the final 10 laps. George withstood the immense pressure in the closing stages to take his first Grand Prix victory in superb style.