Russell in perfect harmony with Hamilton as they take fight to rivals

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Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – George Russell told AFP he has a good working relationship with his new Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and says it is primordial to “recognise our fight is not with each other” but with their rivals.

The 24-year-old English driver, in his first full campaign with Mercedes, is preparing for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on the back of a promising fourth place in the season-opening Bahrain race last Sunday.

Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas alongside Hamilton and whilst the former Williams driver is second in the team’s hierarchy there have been several examples of Formula One team-mates falling out.

So far, though, Russell says both he and the seven-time world champion are in perfect harmony.

“I think Lewis and I are really working well together,” said Russell.

“I think we both recognise our fight is not with each other, it is with our rivals.

“We need to work together if we want to win.

“I think we’ve both been probably pleasantly surprised how well we are working as one at the moment. So that is really promising.”

Hamilton finished third in a race won by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Russell said it was important he and his compatriot focus on themselves.

“I think you have to focus on yourself,” he said.

“You know Formula One is a very unique sport and every driver is different.

“Every car is different. You need to work out what is best for you.

“We cannot focus on what Ferrari is doing and how Leclerc is driving, and we need to do this or do that.

“You are your own driver. What may work for me may not work for Lewis. You cannot get caught up in what the other is doing.”

Russell — who caught the bug of being a driver when he went karting aged seven — says he is a glass half full sort of person.

“Well, I think this is the start of a new week and that (the Bahrain Grand Prix) was the end of a week,” he said.

“So you have to go into every race believing.

“Even when I raced at Williams, I genuinely went to every race thinking we could win this weekend.

“You have got to go in with his mindset. Who knows, we could win this weekend.

“You have to believe, you’ve got to believe in yourself. Believe in your team and believe everything is possible.”

‘Ambition is to win’

Russell says it appears both a resurgent Ferrari and long-time rivals Red Bull are going to be tough to beat.

“It’s like we’re running a marathon, but you’re starting 10 minutes behind your competitors to win the race,” said Russell.

“You’ve got to run faster than them, and even then you might still finish behind.”

Russell believes he is in a much better place mentally.

“I think I’m definitely mentally stronger this year than I would have been two years ago,” he said.

“The experiences I’ve had last year and the year before has made me a much stronger and more rounded driver.

“My approach this year is very different comparing to what it would have been last year.”

Russell says like all the other teams with the new regulations the campaign is going to be a learning process.

“Of course my ambition is to win, but I am not alone in that, there are 19 other drivers who have the same target,” he said.

“I will not be disappointed if this weekend I do not achieve that.

“When I raced for Mercedes in 2020 (he replaced Hamilton in Bahrain due to the latter having Covid-19 and led till a poor pit stop and a puncture dashed his dreams of winning), I could be disappointed if I didn’t achieve that because that was possible.

“I think this year will be a huge year of learning and development for every team in Formula One.”

Russell says Mercedes can reap the rewards if they develop faster than the nine other teams.

“If we do that there’s no reason why we can’t fight for victories in the long run.

“That’s what I’m chasing.”

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