George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell “a future champion, no doubt” – Domenicali

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In the round-up: New Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is convinced Williams driver George Russell has the potential to be a future champion.

What they say

Domenicali was asked whether he’d prefer to see Russell or Lewis Hamilton driving for Mercedes this year. While he lavished praise on Hamilton, Domenicali said both he and Russell are “incredible drivers”:

George has shown the potential and, as Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] was saying, he will be a future champion, no doubt. So it’s a matter of having both for me, with my responsibility, because both they can do great stuff for Formula 1.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Who should F1 exempt from its $200 million fee for new teams?

I presume it will be waived for any manufacturer proposing to become an engine supplier, and probably any other genuinely factory backed manufacturer that is not bringing an engine.

It would be nice to see it also waived to any F2 constructor who has won a drivers or teams championship in the last five years. It would still be a massive step up, but at least they would have a motorsport background, rather than a whole new team setup by ‘randoms’.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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43 comments on “Russell “a future champion, no doubt” – Domenicali”

  1. New Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is convinced Williams driver George Russell has the potential to be a future champion.

    Gee he’s certainly putting his neck out saying that :) He is the next Merc golden boy and for good reason, but I think there are others who are also in the running. Leclerc, Norris, Verstappen and Ocon. Unfortunately simply because of the time factor I think Ricciardo’s opportunity is getting narrower, maybe McLaren close the gap completely in 2022 and give him a run at it till his mid 30s.

    1. I get a little sick of hearing the term “future champion” – it seems to get used all to often, and just as often the target of the conversation doesn’t ever have the car or the skill to actually be a WDC.

      Pretty much every driver in the field has the potential, otherwise they wouldn’t be driving in F1 but only a very few, even the so called “special” ones, end up in the right car at the right time.

      Yes Russell, LeClerc, Verstappen etc are all great drivers, but reality says that it’s just as possible that none of them will ever become a WDC due to either not having the right equipment or someone more special coming along in the interim.

      1. @dbradock

        Yes Russell, LeClerc, Verstappen etc are all great drivers, but reality says that it’s just as possible that none of them will ever become a WDC due to either not having the right equipment or someone more special coming along in the interim.

        Yes I agree and for me that goes without saying, but some followers seem to think that the driver they support is ordained to be a champion.

    2. By including ‘potential’ you can include a lot of names even Ricciardo and Schumacher. And what about Gasly and maybe even Stroll (I’m on thin ice now)?

      But all those praising Russell (and I’m one of those) shouldn’t forget that his 2020 performance was only on Saturdays and a single Sunday. Or at least he didn’t leave a gap to his (rookie) team mate – who was rated worst like – like we should expect a future champion to do.

      1. Gasly was stronger than Russell in 2020, yep.

        I heard about Wurz and Hulkenberg «potential/future champion».

        It looks that those running the sport talk BS like no other.

        1. And alesi, barrichello, coulthard, frentzen, fisichella, Webber, heidfeld, to name just a few who either never got a good shot or never really shaped up – the list is long and there’s nothing to say any of the current crop won’t be the same. What’s very unlikely is that none of verstappen, leclerc, ricciardo, Russell etc will be champion at some point.

      2. @coldfly I see two drivers in the running as they are looking to be in the right place at the right time. Russell and Leclerc then Verstappen and Ocon if he gets his chance at Merc. Stroll? I’ve said before I think he’s a good mid fielder, I really don’t think he could mix it with those I mentioned in the first post.

        1. Of course if you include the car then the list will be 99.9% dependent on that. Of the 2021 drivers 19 are future champions if racing in the Mercedes against Mazepin (if it is Nikita against Mazepin then both will crash into each other and then banned).

          In equal material I would now (based talent and current experience/’maturity’) order them as follows: Verstappen, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly, Russell, and only after that a group with Ocon/Stroll.

    3. Ocon? He doesn’t strike me as WDC material (but I’ve been wrong before).
      Max and Charles, of course, may be Russell, and of course Ricciardo, though he is running out of time.
      I would add Carlos Sainz to the list, even knowing that lots of people here do underestimate him. He has managed to land a seat with the Scuderia, which is at a very low point now but hopefully won’t last forever. And I agree he doesn’t have the natural speed of Charles and Max, but he has relentless consistency, which given the right car/team is good enough for a string of titles, as the recent history abundantly proves.

      1. melanos Ocon needs to prove himself against Alonso this year, if he can do well then I think he’s in with a shot at the second Merc seat.

      2. Whats with the perpetual Ricciardo as WDC? Is it his big smile? He’s been around for ages, it will be very unlikely he will ever achieve something better than he already has. No WDC for him unless he accidentally lands in a car that is unbeatable like Jenson did. Jenson would never have won a WDC either on own strength. For the record: I love Jenson and Ricciardo, but they are the level just below the real winners

        1. Ricciardo is very fast with Qualiflying and is decent enough in races to win races. His overtakes are very good so we could say he is WDC matrial.
          But i agree to chance to say certains people are WDC matrial just very fast or exceptiale drivers.

    4. Agreed on all the stated drivers except for Ocon.

  2. “a future champion, no doubt”

    This all depends on which team he joins, and then if that team [continues to] dominates the sport.

    1. Exactly. They said the same about Verstappen and look at him now. Many seasons in F1, nothing to celibrate. Ricciardo, same story but by now too old and made irrelevant by new batch of youngsters with more talent. But I guess they mean the potential is there in Leclerc, Max and George. Whomever gets a decent car will take the title. Look at Hamilton, a 2 or 3 WDC level driver currently having a tally of 7 due to being in the right place at the right time. All good drivers, cars are decisive however

      1. You’re absolutely right. A mediocre driver will be WDC in the current Mercedes. That’s a big flaw in the current F1, to allow such inequalities between cars that the driver has little influence as to the outcome of the race.

  3. While not appearing to me be a natural fit, Ferrari seemed to weigh the Indy concept seriously for a while but it looks like they’ve done a good job offloading excess staff into the Haas operation. Hopefully that works out for both teams and the employees in the medium-long term and gives us another competitive car to enjoy.

  4. Russell showed that with no preparation in a car not designed for him in any way he’s faster than a guy who has spent 4 seasons in that same car.

    Russell would win 12/17 races against Bottas in the Merc.

    1. Russell would win 12/17 races against Bottas in the Merc.

      Can please also share next week’s lottery numbers and the weather for the inaugural Vietnam GP.

      1. Also could you explain how much of the setup was due to Lewis and how
        much due to Russell.
        I will stick my neck out and say that he will never be a WDC.
        First he has to show that he knows how to setup a car and them he has to consistently beat Max.
        I don’t believe he can beat Max and let’s not even talk about Lewis.

    2. @Dean F True. He seems to be more adaptable than, for example, Gasly or Albon.

    3. Dean F, and, yet again, you’ve avoided answering the question put to you before about why you need to hate Hamilton so much that you constantly obsess over him.

      What really drives your anger and hatred? Why does it seem to matter more than the first word of your child or the kiss of your love that you have to constantly be on this site pouring out bile and hatred against him, wasting your life in anger and hatred with this sort of utterly stupid behaviour? Is it really for a reason you can’t explain, or one you won’t explain because it is something you can’t admit to? Why the desperation to want to be seen to please a driver who does not know who you are, does not care who you are, does not need somebody like you and does not want a fan like you?

      1. My father doesn’t hate hamilton but he’s also impressed by that russel race in mercedes, he thinks he’s faster than anyone on the grid, including verstappen and he watched f1 for a loooooong time.

        IMO russel, verstappen and leclerc are interchangeable speed wise, experience is what makes the difference, I have a hard time without any direct comparison to say hamilton is as fast, since he’s getting old by now, but he certainly makes up with less mistakes.

        1. I suspect your father is right and Russell may well be the fastest man on the grid except Hamilton. But he needs to prove his consistency as well as his speed and tyre care.

      2. anon,
        As far as I can see, did Dean F not even mention Hamilton or even refer to him.

      3. There’s an awful lot of supposition in that post. A lot of overly emotional, over the top language. As others have said, Dean F didn’t even mention Hamilton. The driver who’s been in the car for four years is Bottas, not Hamilton. The driver whose ability is being compared negatively to Russell is Bottas, not Hamilton.

        Is this like people in the 1950s seeing reds under the bed when in reality there weren’t any? You’re so obsessed with the terrible injustice of people saying negative things about Lewis that you see criticism of him when there isn’t any.

        You seem to think you know an awful lot about Dean F and what he’s thinking. And you resort to using lazy arguments and personal attacks on Dean F with words like “anger”, “hatred”, “bile”, “hatred” (again), “wasting your life”, “utterly stupid”, “desperation” and so on.

        The most overused word on the internet is “hate” (and its derivatives). Yes, some people take Hamilton to task when it’s not warranted. Others do when it is warranted. But when they do, it’s not “hate”. It’s called criticism. You can criticise someone without “hating” them.

        “Hate” is what leads to wars, genocide, religious persecution and so on. Saying negative things about a person who drives a fast car in circles for 90-odd minutes for 20-odd weekends a year is not hate.

        Get a sense of proportion.

      4. @anon Another banal personal attack to cover for your hero. The topic is Russell’s chances as a future champion and someone’s take on that, but yet again you have to turn everything about Hamilton and your hate for those who have been critical of him. It’s getting embarrassing.

      5. Well, like it or not, Russell totally owned Bottas, not surprisingly. I’d make it 16/17 (excluding mech mishaps and team errors). I believe even Luca Badoer (to mention one of the worst F1 drivers ever, from the top of my head) would own Bottas nowadays. On the other hand, your post clearly shows who’s obsessed with who.

    4. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      7th February 2021, 11:03

      You just can’t confirm much based on one race at the simplest, shortest track layout of the season…. People are getting a little carried away by this.

      I keep saying this but about a third of Russel’s launches off the line in his F1 career have been terrible. Worse than any other driver on the gird in the past 2 years on average. Kubica outlaunced him 11/19 times which really says something. Both his williams team mates haven’t had this problem, so it won’t be related to the car. It often doesn’t get noticed because he’s got little to lose because he’s near the back anyway, but had he been at Mercedes the past 2 years and he had done the same starts, i think many would be saying his career at a top team wouldn’t last as he likely will have lost multiple positions on many, many occasions. Not that i don’t think he’d be able to recover, but it would cost him points. He will have to improve in that area to comfortably beat Bottas over a full season if Hamilton isn’t there to make it hard for Bottas. i think many will be surprised that Bottas will likely do a fair bit better without Hamilton there. Hamilton knocks his confidence and I think Bottas’s biggest weakness is that confidence effects his ability.

      That race weekend was considered by many as a weak one by Bottas and I think I can agree. If Bottas was on his usual form, he likely would have beaten Russell. We also need to factor in that Bottas was in fact faster in the 2nd stint and likely would have caught up had things gone normally. Passing is a different matter though. I’m aware this was Russells first race after no preparation, but it doesn’t prove his entire future with the team. He also made bigger errors than bottas this year – Crashing before the race began in Turkey and crashing during the safety car in another. He also totally messed up his strategy in Russia and finished further behind Latifi than has been the case the other way round at any other race (other than hungary which was not Latifi’s fault) All this is likely the reason for being Russell ranked behind Bottas in the driver ratings.

      Russell has potential, but I don’t think he’s yet shown he would be consistently up there with even the drivers a tier below the best. Let alone even close to Hamilton on a regular basis. But in a few years, that could well change.

    5. So did Max and see how many championships he has won ;)

  5. Re Russell: Expect Bottas to leave Mercedes at the end of this year, but it won’t be easy if he’s racing against Hamilton.
    Re Ecclestone: Can’t he just accept that his time in F1 is over? POW, that’s the one shot!

    1. Can’t see why Bottas would willingly give up the only seat that can win the championship. He’s already shown he’s content to come second more than he is to drive any other car. If he leaves, it will be because he’s pushed.

      And with Bernie – well, if the media stopped poking microphones and cameras in his face and asking stupid questions…

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        7th February 2021, 11:11

        All Bottas needs is a season like 2017 and Hamilton to have the misfortune instead of him. It will clearly be lucky, but that could well get him the WDC.

        If he sees this as an opportunity (unlikely but possible) then he should take every opportunity to stay.

      2. S
        The only way I can see Bottas keeping the seat is if Hamilton has some say in it. Other than that I would think Merc/Wolff have made the decision.

        1. @johnrkh Why would Merc drop the driver who finishes second consistently enough, doesn’t bother No.1 very often, scrapes up enough points to grab the WCC every year and always does what he’s told?
          To get someone who might just be hungry enough to upset the team equilibrium?

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            7th February 2021, 13:09


            this is pretty much what I think. I see Russell as more of a replacement for Hamilton, but probably not for some time. Unless Bottas really messes up next year, there really isn’t much of a reason to change things.

          2. S@thegianthogweed The reason I’m thinking along these lines is as this is very likely Hamilton’s last contract as a driver and Merc need to replace him, Bottas struggles against the other top drivers.
            It would take a season for Russell to get up to the point where he can challenge Hamilton on a regular basis, so it would be a handover period in a way. There are the rumours about Verstappen being considered as Hamilton’s replacement, he obviously could step into Hams shoes but that would upset Russell.
            Also RB would fight tooth&nail to keep him because without MV they’re toast. That also explains the reason they are in such a panic about Honda leaving.

  6. Surely as Motorsport fans we should all rejoice Newey doesn’t like the new rules

    I would hate to see BOP in F1 of any sort, it that said I’m not sure I want the freedom to design & develop cars OR PUs to the extent that we end up with such a spread in the field

    I detest artificiality in when shape or form, those who do the best job should win, but lowering the bar to make the job easier is fair to everyone, and with hope the ‘22 regs go some way to doing so. Now we just need a simplified new PU with similar restraints we now see in the chassis regs

    1. I found this the most interresting Newey doesn’t like the new rules.

      It’s also what he doesn’t tell ! He didn’t found any loopholes to make a difference?

      I thought he would like the groundeffect rules but it seems not.

  7. Much of the F1 grid are potential world champions. It’s a question of getting into the best car and being a bit quicker than your No.2. That’s what Vettel did for 4 years at Red Bull, and that’s what Hamilton has done for umpteen years at Mercedes.

  8. Put Stroll or Lafiti in Mercedes car instead of Hamilton and Bottas is the next champion. This is F1. There are no “future champions”, there are no guarantees, they need the car. This is impossible to predict, at least if you don’t have inside information about driver transfers and you can predict the car development race. From what I’ve seen so far I’d still bet on Leclerc as a better driver, at least with their current forms, and most definitely Verstappen, but there are too many variables and we rarely get the real opportunity to compare drivers. Driving different cars here is the same as competing in different sports, I can’t compare a footballer to a basketball player.

  9. The Daly case is nasty, feel sorry for Derek.

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