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Shovlin reveals how Russell coped with Mercedes struggles

George Russell spent three years racing for Williams at the back of the pack. Now, the struggles he went through enable him to push his new team to be the best.

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Mercedes’s Andrew Shovlin believes that George Russell’s time at Williams helped him overcome issues in 2022.

Andrew Shovlin in the paddock ahead of the 2022 Mexico City Grand Prix. (Photo by CARLOS PEREZ GALLARDO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CARLOS PEREZ GALLARDO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Over three tough years at Williams, the Brit gradually helped the team improve. By 2021, they finished eighth in the constructors’ championship with one podium at the questionable one-lap Belgian Grand Prix.

However, going from the outfit at the back of the pack to the team with eight constructors’ titles was not plain sailing.

How Russell dealt with Mercedes’ struggles

Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes in 2022. Changes in regulations meant the German team struggled with porpoising and fell behind their main rivals. 

Andrew Shovlin, trackside engineering director for Mercedes, explained how Russell’s issues at Williams helped him cope with the new problems.

He told “Lewis [Hamilton] I think had a rather sort of sudden period of adjustment from a car that he knew that he could if he delivered what he was capable of he’d be fighting for the win at any given weekend.

“George, having come from Williams, I think his experience there probably put him in good stead to deal with the car we were racing and trying to qualify at the start of the year.

“I think there was an element with George where he was probably hoping the experience would be a bit more different from the one he was used to, but he was very good at just getting on with the challenge that was in front of him.”

At Williams, the Brit’s main difficulties were reliability and scoring points. Moving to Mercedes meant that suddenly, finishing off of the podium was a disappointment.

Despite the significant changes Russell faced, Shovlin praised him for his teamwork with Hamilton:

“What was nice to see almost straightaway was the two of them were working to put the team in a better place. The way they were working together, the way they were happy to share out the workload – the number one focus was on improving the car, not squabbling over who was going to finish fifth and who was going to finish sixth.”

Russell’s tricky rookie season

The rookie class of 2019 consisted of friends and rivals Russell, Alex Albon and Lando Norris. 

Although Russell decisively beat his compatriots in the lower formulae, they both signed contracts with teams higher up the grid. 

Norris headed to McLaren and Red Bull promoted Albon to drive alongside Max Verstappen. Meanwhile, Russell joined the historic Williams team.

“That was a really unique season for my first year in Formula 1 – joining Williams, a team that was on the brink of bankruptcy,” Russell told the High Performance Podcast.

“There was no doubt, when I got to the first race in Australia, [I thought] I’m here in Formula 1, almost one dream accomplished, and got on track and we’re four seconds off the pace.

“The car’s falling apart, and we’re being lapped two or three times – [you] kind of think to yourself, is this the dream?

“Seeing Alex in Red Bull scoring podiums and being the man to a degree, and Lando equally always in the points, that was sort of difficult to digest, because I’ve just come from Formula 2 where I beat them.”

Russell failed to score points in his rookie season and finished 20th in the standings. Nevertheless, his motivation to succeed did not fade:

“I thought that, even though they’re finishing in the points and they’re scoring podiums, I’m not here to score points or podiums, I’m here to win and I want to win. Even though they were finishing ahead of me, we’re all going through this journey together, learning. I was part of Mercedes and I felt like my time will come.”

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

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