Russell: Rivals’ praise just ‘background noise’

George Russell has insisted his recent praise from some of F1’s biggest names is mere “background noise” as he strives to fulfil his potential.

The Williams driver, who is effectively on a three-year ‘loan’ deal from Mercedes, has been the subject of compliments from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the last few weeks.

Hamilton urged Russell to shrug off the big mistake he made in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, where he crashed out behind the Safety Car, by sending him a message on social media saying: “You’re great, bud.”

Alonso, meanwhile, who has been keeping tabs on Formula 1 from a distance ahead of his return to the grid with Renault next year, said: “George Russell is the one that surprises me every weekend. If I have to say one name, Russell for the future is my pick.”

But while the 22-year-old Briton admitted “that means a hell of a lot to me coming from a guy like Fernando”, he is not letting the admiration from a couple of World Champions who are among the biggest achievers of the modern era to distract him from the task in hand.

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Quoted by RaceFans, Russell, who despite being yet to score a World Championship point has forged his lofty reputation as a result of some excellent qualifying performances, said: “I obviously really appreciate these comments, without a shadow of a doubt.

“But it’s almost sort of background noise really, because I know I have to continue to perform week in, week out and as fantastic as it is to get a pat on the back and the praise from these guys, I’ve got to back that up with the job I do on track.

“So I’ve always tried not letting comments like this get into my head or anything. I’m doing this for myself and my family. And the biggest amount of pressure I have is from myself and not from anyone else.”

Russell is reported to be first in line for a Mercedes race seat when the World Champions part company with either Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas.

In terms of a potential opening for 2022, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said recently: “It all depends how next season goes.

“Also, in our team, our loyalty is highest for the guys in the car because we owe it to them to give them every opportunity.

“But then obviously George is pretty highly rated for the future.”

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