Williams CEO Jost Capito has suggested that George Russell is not too dissimilar to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, expressing his belief that he could be powerless to stop Mercedes from picking up the 23-year-old at the end of the season. Russell has established himself as one of F1’s brightest young talents since making his debut in 2019, and has been tipped to make the switch to the Silver Arrows in the near future.
He has consistently outperformed Nicholas Latifi on an almost weekly basis, with the King’s Lynn native yet to lose a single qualifying session to his Williams team-mate.
Russell has finished within a whisker of a points-paying position on a number of occasions, which is testament to his ability with the machinery at his disposal.
Williams have finished rock bottom of the Constructors’ Championship in each of the last three seasons and appear to have the second-worst car in terms of outright performance this time around.
Latifi has struggled to lay a glove on Russell since the Canadian racer succeeded Robert Kubica last year, but Capito has admitted that he is sympathetic with the 25-year-old’s situation.
The Williams chief suggested that it must be like trying to beat Hamilton, such is the gulf in class between the two drivers.
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“I think he’s better than his reputation,” Capito told Auto Motor und Sport when quizzed on Latifi.
“Having George as a team-mate is like having Hamilton as a team-mate. This is not an easy task. Nicholas does it really well. I’m very satisfied.”
Russell has been tipped by many to replace Hamilton at Mercedes when the 36-year-old eventually decides to retire from F1.
His Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas also looks to be in a precarious position, with the contracts of both drivers set to expire at the end of the season.
Mercedes poached the Finn from Williams back in 2017 after the departure of Nico Rosberg, and it has been suggested that a repeat could soon be on the cards with regards to Russell.
Although Capito would undoubtedly love to keep hold of his star man for as long as possible, he admitted that the pulling power of the German outfit could simply be too strong.
“When Mercedes makes a driver an offer, it’s hard for someone to keep him,” he added. “It doesn’t matter which driver, in which team.”
Despite the looming threat of a Mercedes move for Russell, Capito revealed that he is not making any contingency plans as of yet, stressing that his full focus is with the current campaign and helping Williams to end their three-year wait for a championship point.
“It’s too early now,” he explained. “Several contracts are expiring. At some point, the silly season will start, don’t let it start earlier than necessary.
“At the moment it would be wrong to focus on alternatives or ask what a driver will do next year. That’s too early in my opinion. We need to focus on the team first.”
It remains to be seen whether Mercedes decide to change their driver lineup ahead of next season or tie down their current pairing for another campaign.
Russell, like Hamilton and Bottas, will be out of contract at the end of the year and remains a Silver Arrows junior driver, meaning he is effectively on loan at Williams.
If the former F2 champion leaves the historic British outfit at the end of the season, they could be inclined to offer a permanent race seat to test driver Roy Nissany, who has already featured in a handful of free practice sessions.