F1 star George Russell admits fame still isn’t for him and ‘finds it strange’ when people recognize him
GEORGE RUSSELL will be much more comfortable in the tight turns of Silverstone than in the tunnel of autograph hunters.
The Mercedes man is a superstar attraction at the British Grand Prix this weekend – but fame doesn’t sit too comfortably with the young driver from Norfolk.
He is the only British-born F1 ace living in the UK, along with Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris and Alex Albon, all in the tax haven of Monaco.
Instead, Russell lives in a flat in London with his girlfriend Carmen Montero Mundt – and together they are slowly getting used to fame.
The 24-year-old, who switched from Williams to partner Hamilton this season, said: “I’ve definitely noticed a change since joining Mercedes.
“Also because we’ve been through this pandemic and we weren’t really going out on the streets a lot or going out to dinner.
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“It was kind of like a slap in the face in terms of change.
“I feel like a normal guy. I enjoy what I do for a living is quite spectacular.
“I’m lucky to do this but I don’t feel famous. I don’t think I’m famous.”
Besides seven-time world champion Hamilton and reigning supremo Max Verstappen, Russell is probably the driver most fans will want to see at Silverstone.
He speaks with maturity and a Norfolk accent in his accent.
The boy from King’s Lynn said: ‘Maybe other people will think differently. But I feel like George Russell.
“I always find it strange that people recognize me on the street.
“Sometimes we had paparazzi, like on vacation, which I’ve never experienced.
“Also, on a few occasions, fans have followed us on the streets.
“Most of the time it’s with good intentions but knowing you’re being followed is a bit of an awkward position, especially when I’m walking around with my girlfriend.
“It’s good that they support you. And without the fans, this sport, and all of us, are nothing – but sometimes I feel more comfortable staying home.
“I just live in a nice little flat in London, that’s exactly what I need. But I find myself moving from my floor to the gym.
“And the only place I would go to dinner would be across the road from my local.
“Just because I feel more comfortable doing it. It’s less of a palaver for me and my girlfriend. She works in finance at City and is incredibly supportive.
“When we first met she didn’t know who I was or anything about F1. We’ve been on this journey together. She’s the person I spend the most time with. . »
Russell still hopes the British GP can draw him into a title fight with Red Bull’s Verstappen.
He is the only driver to place in the top five of nine races this year.
Podiums in Australia, Spain and Azerbaijan put him fourth overall, ahead of teammate Hamilton.
But his form has largely gone under the radar, especially given the rebounding issues with the Merc.
And Russell thinks it’s only a matter of time before his team finally unleashes their potential.
In an interview at Mercedes HQ in Brackley, he told SunSport: “I’m only 18 points from second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
“Max looks bulletproof but things change very quickly and if we find a performance boost and Ferrari also finds one, who knows?
“Suddenly it could be a Mercedes one-two, a Ferrari three-four and a Red Bull five-six. If you go to a series of races like that, that changes quickly.
“We are concentrating on one thing and that is to get the car going as fast as possible. If we focus on that, the results will come with it. »
When asked if he was still in the hunt for the title, Russell added: “Absolutely and I see no reason not to.
“There’s a hell of a long way to go and a huge amount of development going on. I’ve been in every race for the last three years for Williams thinking I could win.”
‘A BIGGER PICTURE’
“You have to believe it because if you don’t believe it, you’re defeated before you even start.”
Mercedes have won eight of the last nine British GPs and Russell says if they do it again he wouldn’t mind if it was him or Hamilton.
He added: “We both have our eyes on the top step of this podium.
“Right now I don’t really care if he’s ahead and I don’t think he really cares if I’m ahead because there’s a big picture and we’re trying just to change things.
“But he was absolutely perfect, in every race. He always congratulated me if I had a good result.
“There were never any hard feelings, regardless of the results or the outcome. He has nothing more to prove. He proved it all.