George Russell willing to take more risks to earn Formula One points

Russell Formula One
Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Ahead of his move to Mercedes in 2022, George Russell is learning to take more risks to put himself in competitive positions in Formula One.

Trailing Aston Martin by 39 points and leading Alfa Romeo by 16 with five rounds remaining on the 2021 schedule, the Williams team is on their own island, and that is what Russell credits his new-found attitude.

“I think the pressure’s been lifted off my shoulders for a while now, and [I’m] more confident to really attack and go for it,” Russell said on “P20 to P14 (at Austin) was a strong start for me, and I think in this position where we are now in the championship, we’ve got this small buffer, and it’s allowing me to go out there and really push the limits.

“I’m quite enjoying it to be honest. I’m not a driver who usually makes a huge amount of mistakes, but I wanted to push myself. I think it’s why we saw an off in FP3, a little off in qualifying at Zandvoort, and just really trying to push the limit to see if there’s more in there in these last few races.”

Russell got his first taste of scoring points last fall, when he was pressed into service as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement after that driver tested positive for COVID-19 before the Sakhir GP. Starting second in the more powerful Mercedes car normally run by the 2020 F1 champion, Russell fell to ninth and earned three points.

Russell would have to wait 12 races before he finished in the points again, but when he did so, it was with another career-best of eighth at Hungaroring this August. The next week, another second-place qualification effort at Spa Francorchamps allowed his team to secure half-points when rain canceled that race after two slow circuits behind the pace car. Teammate Nicholas Latifi also scored points in both events.

After those runs, Russell was announced as the driver who will replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and team with Hamilton in 2022. Since then, he earned points in Italy and Russia, giving him four such outings in the last seven weeks.

Knowing that Mercedes has confidence in his ability is also part of Russell’s enhanced confidence.

“It’s just less pressure,” Russell said. “I think the fact we are in a position of relative comfort in the constructors’ championship and also on a personal level, [having] everything confirmed for next year, I’m in a very stable position personally and just able to go out there and try new things and don’t be afraid to make some mistakes.

“Just this weekend (At COTA) we struggled for pace. It’s a very strange circuit I felt, there wasn’t much adhesive grip from the tarmac and I think all the drivers were sliding around a lot and we just didn’t optimize it, make the most of it. [I] started last, made a good start up to 14th, and just stayed there. Nothing gained nothing lost; [at least] our rivals in Alfa (Romeo) didn’t score points.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.