As Lewis Hamilton sets his sights on a record-equalling seventh World Drivers’ Championship, two British drivers will battle it out lower down the grid – both determined to become Britain’s next World Champion. But have either of them got what it takes?
The first of those drivers is George Russell. He spent last season bringing up the rear alongside Robert Kubica for legendary British F1 team Williams but provided the one positive in what was a dismal campaign for the team. Despite being the only driver not to earn a point, he finished ahead of his more experienced teammate on 16 occasions (in races where they both finished) and out-qualified his teammate in all 21 races.
Lack of competition
Given the car he was driving, his teammate was his only competition. And he passed that test with flying colours. By the time the F1 circus reached Hungary, Russell was already drawing praise for his achievements. He qualified in 16th in that race ahead of both Racing Point drivers and Renault‘s Daniel Ricciardo, narrowly missing out on Q2 – a stellar result under difficult circumstances.
Targeting points in 2020
This season, Williams look to have a made a step forward. They will still be fighting at the back but there is a feeling that they can compete for points when the action gets underway. Russell will relish the opportunity to reel in his rivals towards the rear of midfield and this could be the period that defines his future.
A seat waiting at Mercedes?
The Mercedes junior driver has been tipped as future Mercedes driver by Toto Wolff and there are rumours the 22-year-old may be ready to step up at the end of the season. If he performs well, he may have a choice of options and he must choose the right trajectory if he is to follow in the footsteps of Hamilton.
At 22 years of age, Russell is hardly a baby in motorsport terms – Max Verstappen was just 17 when he raced his first Grand Prix. But with the clock ticking, the next year or two will be crucial for the Norfolk-born F1 racer if he is to emerge as a genuine contender to be Britain’s next top driver – at the moment, he is still a long way off. In the meantime, Hamilton remains the man to beat as he was tipped to win a seventh World Drivers’ Championship in online betting markets prior to the postponement of the start of the season.
The other contender for the tag of Britain’s next Number One is Lando Norris. Also a part of McLaren‘s junior driver programme, Norris currently drives for the prestigious Woking team. In a year brimming with new young talent across the grid, the 20-year-old managed to attract plenty of attention on and off the circuit.
Already in the mix
Despite McLaren being far from their best, he had a great start to his debut season, out-qualifying experienced teammate Carlos Sainz in six of the first nine Grands Prix and grabbing two sixth-place finishes. His teammate had a good second half to the season and finished on 96 points, while Norris ended with 49. However, Norris out-qualified Sainz 11-10 throughout the campaign. The team finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, 54 points clear of Renault and both drivers were retained for 2020.
Norris’ trajectory is very different from Russell’s. He is having to learn at the sharp end of a competitive midfield where there is a lot more going on around the driver. Whether this will give him an edge over Russell in the long-term remains to be seen but there are echoes of Max Verstappen‘s jump into the deep end of the sport. However, like Russell, he is still a long way off from even standing in Hamilton’s shadow.
A star off the track
The Bristol-born driver has shown a mature attitude and is not one for the party lifestyle, although he seems to know when to bring some fun to the sport. He drives with a smile and is active on social media. This has given him a great rapport with younger motorsport fans and earned him the nickname “the meme king”. He has a great sense of humour and seems very media-savvy judging by his social media presence and YouTube channel. This ability to interact with the fans and give them a fascinating glimpse of what it takes to be an F1 driver while maintaining a fully-focussed attitude on the track has caused many to believe he will grow to become the next superstar of Formula One.
With Russell and Norris on the grid, the future of British F1 driving seems to be in great hands. But as always, it will come down to performances on the track to determine which one will go on to become the next great Briton. As things stand, Norris is in pole position.