Williams driver George Russell is confident he would have been “absolutely ready” to become teammates with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for the 2021 Formula 1 season. 

Ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Williams confirmed that it would be continuing with an unchanged driver line-up consisting of Russell and F1 rookie Nicholas Latifi next season. 

Russell, who is managed by Mercedes as the German manufacturer’s leading junior driver, originally signed for Williams until the end of the 2021 season last year, but he had been linked with an early graduation to the reigning world champion squad for next year, possibly as replacement for Valtteri Bottas

Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams made its intention clear to Mercedes that she wanted Russell to see out the remainder of his three-year contract at the Grove-based outfit.

But had the call come from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff that a 2021 drive alongside six-times world champion Hamilton was available, would Russell have felt ready for the step up?

“I’m absolutely ready,” he told Crash.net in an exclusive interview. 

"I feel ready. I’ve had a year and a bit under my belt, and I would have the remainder of this year.

“But there’s no hard feelings from Mercedes’ perspective, there’s nothing more they could do. Ultimately I have a contract here at Williams. 

“Claire was very firm with her feelings towards everything,” he added. “She wasn’t ready to let me go, so I have to respect that decision and get on with it really and just move forward.” 

Bottas, who is understood to have agreed a deal in principle to remain with Mercedes for a fifth consecutive season following his impressive start to the delayed 2020 campaign, said on Thursday that talks were “heading in the right direction”. 

Meanwhile, Russell insisted he will not let any “outside factors” distract him from the task at hand to help Williams turnaround its fortunes over the next two years, as the team continues its recovery effort after suffering its worst-ever F1 season in 2019. 

“Everytime I jump in the car I’m out there to do the best job possible, I’m not thinking about any outside factors,” he explained. 

“They will come or [they will] not. The only thing I can control is the job I do on track and that hasn’t changed since day one. I’m just doing my utmost to prove what I can do.” 

With Hamilton expected to sign a contract extension at Mercedes for at least two more years, he is likely to still be at the team when Russell’s Williams deal expires at the end of 2021, meaning the 22-year-old Briton might yet get the chance to partner his fellow countryman in the future.

Asked whether he would like the chance to prove himself against Hamilton in equal machinery, Russell replied: “Absolutely. Lewis is the benchmark and I want to be compared against the best. 

“I think I know where my level is at but until I get tested by the best, I won’t truly know. I’m sure there’s bits I can learn from him, so I’d relish that challenge.” 

 

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