Russell: Maintaining current mentality key to future Mercedes seat

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George Russell believes maintaining his current approach is key to remaining on the path to a future Formula 1 seat at Mercedes.

The Briton made his mark on the Brackley-based team in 2020, as only a tyre mix-up by Mercedes denied him a likely win at the Sakhir Grand Prix, where he substituted for Lewis Hamilton after his positive Covid-19 test.

His performance triggered calls for Russell, who drives full-time at Williams, to get a permanent seat at the team, though that is unlikely before 2022 at the earliest.

But asked in Abu Dhabi what he needs to do need next year for that to be possible, the 21-year-old was clear: more of the same.

"I think it's continuing the form, continuing the positive attitude internally with the team and externally," he said. "It is not getting frustrated with the performance here and trying to push Williams further forward.

"I think Mercedes believe in me, they have given me the opportunity, they have always had my back so it is sort of my duty that I stay on the straight and narrow and that I don't suddenly change over the course of next year because of certain circumstances and not turn into something I am not currently."

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Russell's opportunity at the second Bahrain race put him in the unique situation of having raced the fastest car on the grid and one of the slowest in the same season.

And the lesson from that experience is what he considered his biggest from the 2020 season. 

"I think the thing I have learnt most is that you have to be adaptable," he explained.

"My driving style in the Williams actually slightly hurt me in the Mercedes, and when I came back to the Williams and tried to implement some of the things I did in that Bahrain race [Sakhir GP], I couldn't do it in the Williams.

"So I think that sort of reinforced to me that you have to be open-minded and you have to adapt to whatever the car is giving you. It's not that if you can drive like that in a Mercedes, you can drive like that in a Williams and vice versa."

Russell though is using the chance to drive the all-conquering W11 to help Williams improve their car for 2021, in particular at the start.

"It's something he's mentioned," said Dave Robson, Williams' head of vehicle performance.

"He did a particularly good [start in the Mercedes], and he has had some good starts in our car, but I think what we're lacking is the consistency.

"It's probably as much down to what they do on their car than it is the driver.

"So he's got some ideas, particularly about how he might like to change the clutch paddle, so the sort of ergonomics of what they do. That's something we can look at over the winter.

"More interesting is the tyre preparation and how you understand the grip that you're going to have at the start, and therefore what the clutch target is.

"There's probably something for us to learn about there I think."

However, Robson did warn adapting Mercedes ideas to the Williams might not work despite both having the same engine and gearbox.

"The fundamental car pace is probably so different, so we can't just make our car like there's, as simply as he [Russell] would obviously like," he said.

"But once we sit down with him properly, we may change the way we prioritise things."