Formula One: Russell says he would welcome challenge of Verstappen as team-mate

AFP , Wednesday 6 Mar 2024

George Russell on Wednesday made clear he would welcome the challenge of having Max Verstappen as his Mercedes team-mate next year if the world champion left Red Bull to succeed Lewis Hamilton.

George Russell
Mercedes driver George Russell of Britain attends a news conference ahead of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, March 6, 2024. AP

 

Speaking at a news conference ahead of this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Russell said he felt confident he could manage the challenge after coping with partnering "the best driver of all time" in seven-time champion Hamilton.

"It's my third season alongside Lewis, the best driver of all time, and I think I've done pretty well so I'd welcome the challenge. Having Lewis as my benchmark for the last couple of years is a pretty good benchmark!"

He added that any team would take the opportunity to recruit Verstappen, whose future has been the subject of intense speculation following his father Jos's claim that Red Bull would "explode" if team boss Christian Horner kept his job.

"I think any team wants to have the best driver line-up possible and right now Max is the best driver on the grid," he said. "So, if any team had the chance to sign Max they would 100 per cent be taking it.

"So, I think the question is more on the other side, on his side and on Red Bull's side. Obviously, so much is going on there. We don't know what truly goes on behind closed doors and ultimately it's none of our business right now. But, yeah, I guess it would be exciting."

"You always want to go against the best, but ultimately for me I'm just focused on myself," added Russell.

"I believe in myself, I believe I can beat everyone on the grid. You've just got to have that mentality."

Mercedes have been linked with several drivers in relation to the vacancy with highly-rated young Italian Kimi Antonelli and Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, among those mentioned.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso has also been suggested along with Alex Albon, but the idea of Verstappen switching from the strife-hit if dominant Red Bull team gained traction last weekend in Bahrain where Jos Verstappen was reported to have met Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

Verstappen won last Saturday's race in emphatic style to extend his winning run to eight races as he bids for a fourth drivers' world title.

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