Leclerc, Norris & Albon back Russell to perform, and maybe win, on Mercedes debut

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The other three members of Formula 1's 'Twitch quartet' are backing George Russell to shine, and maybe even win, on debut with Mercedes this weekend.

Having spent the past two seasons near the back in an uncompetitive Williams, the Briton finally gets a chance to prove himself in the best car on the grid as he replaces Lewis Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix at least.

On Thursday, Russell played down expectations by saying he isn't setting any for his first race at the German manufacturer, but Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and Alex Albon weren't shy to talk the 22-year-old up.

“For George, it’s an amazing opportunity, I’ve known him for a lot of years,” said Leclerc.

“We were teammates, me, Alex and George back in 2011 in karting. Now he finally has the opportunity to race for a top team, I don’t know for how long if it’s only one weekend or two.

“I think he will show how much of a good driver he is this weekend. For me, [I’d expect] a podium at least, but I have some hopes of a win. It’s very optimistic, but I know he is very good. I would bet on a win.”

As for Lando Norris, he sent a joke to Russell after his Mercedes drive was confirmed about George finally lapping him rather than the other way around.

But on a serious note, the McLaren driver said: “He has big boots to fill, from a seven-time world champion, I wish him all the best, it’ll be a big challenge for him.

“I think he can achieve a pole, I think he can achieve a win.

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“If there’s any weekend maybe Mercedes have a smaller advantage than any other weekend it's probably here [on Bahrain's Outer Circuit].

"So he’s taken a step up into the team at probably one of the toughest weekends of the year in terms of their advantage that they probably have over the rest of the field so it’s not going to be easy for him.

“But I know how good a driver he is, everyone else does too and of course Mercedes do as well. I’m expecting big things.”

Finally, Alex Albon also gave Russell his vote of confidence.

“I’m excited for him. I think he will show everyone what he can do," declared the London-born Thai. “Obviously, it’s exciting for the younger generation I guess and I have no doubts he’s going to do a good job.”

Albon's Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen also had a message for George...

"Just enjoy it, because it will be a difference of day and night to drive that car. And in a good way.

"I went through the same thing when I got into Red Bull. There was a lot to learn, but when I first hit the track I was like, 'oh my god, what a difference!' You don't know about that before.

“Fortunately for him, there are not too many corners this weekend, but mostly a lot of straights. That will make it easier for him to learn and get used to everything.

"Expectations will be sky-high, but you'll just have to get up to speed and not think about what the outside world is thinking. Focus on working with the team and just enjoy it. It's the best car on the grid, so you better make the most of it.”