George Russell ready to pose a threat to Hamilton and Verstappen after brutal lessons

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George Russell admits he’s had some “brutal” moments emotionally that have helped shape him into the driver he is now as the Briton looks to challenge new Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen when the new season gets underway.

Russell has spent three years as a Mercedes junior driver at Williams earning his stripes in the championship and excelling in an underperforming car.

After months of speculation, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff finally gave the go-ahead for Russell to replace Bottas in 2022, offering the Briton a step up to race alongside Hamilton.

But Russell admits the journey wasn’t all that easy, naming several standout moments that really tested him.

First was the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, where Russell had his first points “in the bag” before a disastrous end to the race denied the young Briton.

Imola was next on the list after he was involved in a high-speed crash with Bottas leading to an explosive rant to the media after the race.

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Russell also added the Sakhir Grand Prix onto the list after the 23-year-old sent waves through the paddock at the end of 2020 when he sat in for a Covid-stricken Lewis Hamilton and nearly went on to beat Valtteri Bottas to the win in Bahrain.

Russell however was struck by a slow pit stop and a puncture during the race and crossed the line ninth, but his performance was still the top of many conversations heading into the 2021 season.

But Russell believes he now possesses a championship-winning trait after experiencing the ‘brutal’ lessons.

“These are the four moments in my three years that stick out to me that were pretty brutal emotionally,” Russell told Autosport.

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“It was just learning how to deal with that. You often feel like you’ve let the whole side down if you make a mistake, and letting that not drain you [is vital] because ultimately if you want to win a championship you need to perform over 23 races.

“You might have a bad race at race one, but you need to bounce back from that.

“Or you might have a bad race mid-season – you can’t let that affect the races following.

“So [you must] almost forget, move on and try to focus on the next race, because memories live short in Formula 1.

“I look back on Bahrain with no frustration or hard feelings. It’s something that I guess has moulded me into a stronger driver.”

Last season, Mercedes were heavily challenged by Red Bull, with Max Verstappen beating the seven-time world champion to the title.

Partnering with Hamilton, Russell will partake in his first full season with the Silver Arrows and will get his second taste of the new Mercedes car when pre-season testing gets underway on February 23 before the Bahrain Grand Prix season opener on March 20.

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