F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker

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F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
© Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images Russell was the subject of months of speculation. Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

  • Insider spoke to Williams’ driver George Russell as he prepared for the US Grand Prix this weekend.
  • The Brit talked about what he hopes to achieve by the end of his career and being more than a driver.
  • Russell also picked the one place in the world he’d love to race, and shared his thoughts on living in the US.

George Russell is only in his third season as an Formula One driver but is on the edge of the move of his career.

Next season, the 23-year-old will partner Lewis Hamilton at the dominant Mercedes team, putting one of F1’s hottest talents in one of the fastest cars on the grid.

The announcement in September brought an end to months of speculation about Russell’s future. All the while he has tried to focus on his current season with Williams.

F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
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Ahead of Formula One‘s return to the United States at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas this weekend, Insider spoke to Russell about handling the pressure of being one of the sport’s most hyped prospects.

‘I want to do everything possible that will make me go faster’

F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
© Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images Russell is currently 15th in the drivers standings. Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

“I always put racing first,” Russell says when asked if the speculation ever distracted him from his work on the track.

“Even when there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, as soon as I get to the track on a Thursday, I always try to put that out of my head because it doesn’t make me go faster.

“I want to do everything possible that will make me go faster because ultimately I’m a racing driver and that’s what we’re here to do. To do the best job possible.

“It’s been a good learning year for me on how to deal with that.”

The Brit’s stock has risen dramatically since his debut in 2019 but even with 54 races under his belt, he says he still gets butterflies before lights out.

“Ahead of every weekend, I’m so excited to go out there and perform and try and do the best job possible.

“There’s nothing like it when you’re lining up on the grid on Sunday afternoon waiting for the lights to go out or whether it’s a Saturday afternoon ahead of qualifying. It’s what we live for.”

On fans returning and realizing his own boost in popularity

F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
© Lars Baron/Getty Images Russell was met by warm applause from his home crowd. Lars Baron/Getty Images

Alongside Lando Norris, Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc, Russell is one of the so-called “Twitch quartet,” a group of drivers who took to live-streaming F1 video games when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them indoors.

The Brit said he was unaware just how much the live streaming and his improved endeavors on track had raised his popularity until fans returned at Silverstone this season.

“It’s night and day.

“I think we all took [having fans] for granted back in 2019 and previously having a big crowd and great support.

“I guess for me, personally, it went from one extreme to another. In 2019, nothing too special happened personally for the fans to get excited about because we were at the back of the grid.

“Then 2020 as my profile grew, it meant I became a bit more comfortable with myself and to express myself and to try and interact more with the fans.

“I could see everything growing and having more support but you couldn’t necessarily see it when you got to the tracks because of COVID and no fans.

“Then suddenly we’re here, a year and a half later, at the first race with a good number of fans and it was absolutely packed and it was such an amazing experience.”

Russell once sent an email to Toto Wolff with his resume attached and asking for a meeting.

F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
© Zak Mauger\Formula 1 via Getty Images 16-year-old Russell sent Toto Wolff his CV in an email and asked for a meeting. Zak Mauger\Formula 1 via Getty Images

Russell’s name was written into F1 folklore when, as a 16-year-old, he emailed Mercedes boss Toto Wolff asking to meet him attached with his CV.

To Russell’s surprise, Wolff replied within 15 minutes and a meeting was arranged.

It was testament to Russell’s huge self-belief even at a young age. He told Insider that a career in the sport is all about “keeping faith.”

“When you’re just a kid, you dreamed of Formula One and you believed you could do it,” he said.

“But for me it was only when I was 16 or 17, I realized it is pretty difficult. It’s not as straightforward as I once believed that you go out there and just win races and you’ll be fine.

“Always keeping faith and always working hard and doing the right things on and off the track.

“If you walk away from something thinking there’s nothing more we could have done and you gave it your best shot then you walk away with no regrets.”

At 23, Russell has plenty of career left and has already set his sights on the ultimate goal – the world championship.

“For sure, winning the world championship is every driver’s dream but Formula One is an incredibly tricky sport.

“Often you need to be in the right place at the right time working perfectly with the team when you have that opportunity.

Russell wants to do more than just race

F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
© Mark Thompson/Getty Images F1 veterans Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have often worn T-shirts to the track promoting causes they believe in. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Asked if he had any other goals outside of driving, Russell highlighted the sport’s ability to promote good causes.

“I’d like to use my platform to try and help and benefit others who are supporters of the sport or admire Formula One drivers or whatever it may be.

“We’ve got such a great opportunity that we’ve got so many supporters, so many fans following the sport, we can’t waste it and we’ve got to put it to good use.

“We’ve got such a good platform to go out there and help and support in whatever means necessary. I’m not sure where I see myself outside of Formula One in 10 years time in all honesty but it’s something I’ve definitely got in the back of my mind.

“I do want to be more than just a Formula One driver.

Home in the USA?

F1's hottest young prospect George Russell discusses being more than just a race driver and how he stays focused in the sport's pressure cooker
© Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images The US Grand Prix has note featured since 2019. Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Russell is heading stateside for the United States Grand Prix this weekend and says the race in Austin is one he looks forward to.

“I really enjoy going to the US. I think it’s a really cool place and especially Austin.

“I’d never been there prior to the Grand Prix and I think it’s a really cool city with an amazing atmosphere.

“The fans really get behind all sports to be honest. You just feel this sense of excitement when you’re there for the Grand Prix. Coupled with the fact the circuit is just a really great circuit, all of it together is really great.”

Asked whether he would want to one day live in the US, Russell did not rule it out.

“I went on holiday to California two years ago and I really, really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great place. Obviously the climate was pretty great.

“It’s certainly something I would think about when the time is right but for the time being while I’m an F1 driver, not yet.”

As well as looking forward to Austin, Russell highlighted South Africa as one place he would love to race.

“I know F1 used to have a race there but it’s a continent I’ve never been to before and I think I’d love seeing the culture.”

Read the original article on Insider

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