Newly crowned FIA Formula 2 champion George Russell said he didn’t feel frustrated when Lando Norris was announced at McLaren while he was the one leading the championship.
In fact, he said, it helped.
“Lando’s announcement so early helped me to push Williams for my drive,” he said, “because if I was ahead of him in the championship and McLaren believed he was worthy of a Formula 1 seat it showed there was some great signs for myself, and it probably added more pressure for Williams to say we’ve got to go with George because he’s the guy who is winning F2.”
With seven victories in 2018, Russell points to the second race in Baku as one of the highlights of his season.
It came on the heels of disaster in Race 1, when he had an incident with Nyck de Vries on a restart while leading and went from the lead to finishing 12th.
“[Baku Race 1] was really disappointing because although it was the guy in P2 who had a lock up and took me out of the race I felt there was possibly something I could have done to avoid that situation, and even though everyone had my back and were telling me I wasn’t in the wrong I still had a voice telling me something slightly different, maybe I could have compromised and gone down to second or third and come back later.
“So I started Race 2 from there and came through to win, so that was redemption for the previous day,” he admitted. “And as a whole the tripleheader was incredible. It’s a driver’s dream to go race after race after race, and it was very tough on the team and we were away from home a lot, but we had three fantastic weeks where we entered about 30 points back in the championship and came out 37 points or so ahead, so that was fantastic!”
The 20-year-old from Britain said his championship-winning season was a learning experience in battling back from a bad result.
“What it’s certainly taught me is that there’s no negative race, because any poor race you have you learn something from it and take it forward, and I think that’s something looking back that I’m glad that our first race in Bahrain was so poor, because we had bad race pace, the car wasn’t good and I was driving the wrong way to get the most out of the tires.
“And we came away from that race learning so much that we put into good use in the following races, whereas if I’d had a better race we might have thought we’re almost there and not learnt as much. So if it’s a good or a bad weekend, there’s always something to take out of it.”
Of his championship rival Alex Albon, Russell had high praise for a driver with whom he’s raced in several series on their rise up the formula ladder.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Alex, we’re great friends, and on the track we’re rivals but we’ve always had great respect for each other in Formula Renault, Formula 3 or this year,” he said. “Going into this he was always the dark horse; there was always a lot of focus on me and Lando for the championship, but Alex was always there and I kept reminding journalists about this. Even in Sochi we were doing a photoshoot with Lando and myself, and I said we need Alex here because he’s right there, and as it turned out it was Alex who was the only one who could fight me coming here!
“I really hope he secures the drive that the media are speculating about for next year.”