Waiting in the wings to replace F1 champion Lewis Hamilton

George Russell expects a decision on whether he joins – or replaces – Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes to be made by the summer.

Patient approach: George Russell.

Ahead of the new season, which starts in Bahrain on Sunday, Britain’s rising Formula 1 prospect also revealed he has hired a psychologist to deal with the strain of racing.

He stated that nobody should be ashamed to seek support for mental health.

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Russell, 23, was thrust into the spotlight at the end of last year when he excelled as Hamilton’s stand-in at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

Russell was robbed of a fairytale victory by a rare Mercedes pit-stop mistake and then a puncture. But his performance as an 11th-hour replacement for the Covid-hit Hamilton accelerated calls for him to be promoted to Mercedes.

Russell is a member of the all-conquering team’s driver academy. Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas are both out of contract at the end of the campaign, while Russell’s three-season deal with Williams also expires this year. Russell said: “My relationship with Mercedes and (team principal) Toto Wolff is stronger than it has ever been.

“They know the situation. They know I want to be fighting for victories and championships. They saw what I could do in Bahrain.

“I need to focus on myself and I don’t need to be badgering them.

“In the past, I have always tried to make things happen, but it is different now. I have been with Mercedes for six years, they are my second family, and if it happens it will happen naturally.

“It will not be any longer than the summer break (in August) for all parties involved – Mercedes, Williams and for all the drivers – so it is fair on everybody.

“Unless anything catastrophic happens in the coming six months, Mercedes know the position I am in and the position they are in. I am getting stronger year-on-year and I believe I am at a level and ready to be fighting for wins and world championships.

“But we will have to see. Formula 1 is a funny business and I don’t take anything for granted.”

Such was the impressive nature of Russell’s super-sub appearance in December, many believe his performance played a role in Mercedes and Hamilton striking only a 12-month extension. Wolff has admitted the team are having to consider life after their superstar driver.

Russell continued: “We haven’t spoken but my relationship with Lewis is fine. There are no issues.”

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