“Winning my first race was a lifelong dream of mine…"
F1 driver George Russell talks to KL Magazine about his journey from rural Norfolk beginnings to São Paulo race winnings
Now in his second season driving for the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team, 25-year-old George Russell has his sights set on becoming an F1 World Champion. Russell took his first victory for the Mercedes team in São Paulo, Brazil in November 2022, eventually finishing the season fourth in the championship standings.
Following that first Grand Prix win, Russell took time to wholeheartedly recognise all those that had supported him throughout his journey, not least his family. “My father and mother supported me a huge amount,” Russell reflects. “It was a real family team effort. I think as a child that is all you can ask for, that support and that chance from your family.”
Like many young boys and girls, Russell tried a range of sports in his youth. “If you have the opportunity to try out more than one sport that’s great,” he says. “I used to play football when I was a youngster until I learnt that go karting was my passion. The advice I would give to any parent whether their child wants to be a racing driver or footballer is firstly to encourage whatever their passion is.”
The current 2023 season has seen Russell continue to deliver ambitious performances, with championship points often just slipping from his grasp. At the time of writing, Russell sits 8th in the Driver Standings, having taken to the podium in Spain and crossing the finish line 5th at his home Grand Prix in Silverstone.
ABOVE: A formidable force, Russell stands with teammate Lewis Hamilton and Team Principal Toto Wolff.
So what is it that makes Russell such a great F1 driver? “Firstly talent,” says Aleix Casanovas, Russell’s Performance Coach. “There is no doubt that he can drive faster than anybody and that skill is there for sure. Then of course his commitment. His professionalism. His desire to do well. His desire to win. He is not afraid to do the job.”
Committing to fulfil his maximum potential day in and day out is the work ethic that keeps Russell at the top. “My ambition, stating the obvious of course, is to become a Formula 1 world champion,” he says. “The landscape of Formula One makes it very difficult to fight for a world championship unless all things are pointing in the right direction for you. But I take satisfaction from leaving a weekend knowing that I gave it my all, I prepared as best as possible and achieved the maximum result that was available. There’s nothing more you can do from there.”
Born in King’s Lynn, Russell grew up in Tydd St Giles and Castle Rising. His drive for speed began young as he took to karting aged seven, inspired by his brother, Benjy. “Because of my older brother’s influence it was natural for me to go into karting from a young age,” Russell says. “And I enjoyed it right from the start.” Russell’s Formula One race number, 63, originates from the rental kart number that Benjy always raced with before he had a kart of his own.
I miss spending time in Norfolk... I want to make time to get back to the place I grew up
“I miss spending time in Norfolk,” Russell says. “I used to go to Hunstanton a lot when I was younger. We lived in King’s Lynn for a period of time and I have some very close family still in the region. I want to make time to get back to the place I grew up.”
In 2017, KL Magazine featured a teenage Russell who was even then predicted to be Britain’s future Formula One star. He had just been signed to Mercedes junior driver programme and was competing in the GP3 series which he went on to win with two races to spare.
Casanovas explains that even a driver with natural talent needs time to develop. “He has learnt things along the way like everybody does. It’s a natural process in life,” he says. “As you get older you learn things. The more experiences you go through the more you learn. But I think that raw talent and raw driving skills were there then and they’re still there now.”
Russell’s career has been a whirlwind of success that looks set to continue. “Obviously getting into Formula One was the biggest step, that’s the dream,” Casanovas says. “Only 20 guys make it that far. But I think George is here to stay for many, many, many years and that’s a thing only very few can achieve.”