George Russell: Fernando Alonso believes Mercedes drive was ‘proof’ for many on F1 star

George Russell 'gutted' to miss out on Sakhir GP victory

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George Russell has won the praise of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the Spaniard hailing the 23-year-old a ‘talent’ in Formula One.

The comments came after Alonso labeled the Williams driver a “future world champion” in Monaco when the pair swapped helmets after the Monaco Grand Prix.

“George, you rock!! Future World Champ”, read the message from Alonso as he gifted his Alpine helmet to the Mercedes junior driver, with Russell tweeting, “This one means a lot. Gracias, legend.”

Russell in return, gave a red-and-blue Williams helmet of his own after Williams completed their 750th Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.

The young driver raised eyebrows last season at the Sakhir Grand Prix after catapulting himself onto the main stage while sitting in for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

After qualifying second, the Briton nearly won the race twice, before a pitstop blunder from the team and a puncture which dropped him back to ninth by the chequered flag.

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But despite his woes, he caught the attention of many in the paddock, including Alonso, who at the time was taking a sabbatical from F1.

“I am definitely very impressed,” said the double world champion.

“I said last year when I was following the sport at home, I think he has been very, very impressive of the performers we’ve seen in the Williams, that we know is not a competitive package.

“A little better this year, but not in the last two, even though he was pulling [out] something special every weekend, and that was nice to watch at home. It’s always something you get impressed [with].

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“Obviously the opportunity with the Mercedes I think was good enough to show, not only the people who were watching at home, I think it was a real opportunity for everyone to watch a driver with talents [like] George can do with a winning car.

“Nearly won the first race with his first opportunity he had.

“That was proof for many people, not only for a few, that we knew how good he was.

“I think that race in Bahrain was enough to open [the eyes] for many millions of people.”

It’s not the first time Russell, who is tipped to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next season, has caught the eye of Alonso.

Back in 2020, Alonso said: “George Russell is the one that surprises me every weekend.

“How he’s driving the Williams and zero mistakes and I’m really surprised about his natural speed,” he added.

“So if I have to say one name, Russell, for the future, is going to be my pick.”

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