George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

Russell would welcome “best driver on the grid” Verstappen at Mercedes

Formula 1

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George Russell would relish the opportunity to go up against Max Verstappen in the same team.

The three-times world champion is contracted to drive for Red Bull until 2028. However a rift has appeared between the Verstappen camp and team principal Christian Horner over the team’s handling of an investigation into his conduct last week.

Verstappen’s father Jos said the integrity of the team would be put at risk if Horner does not leave. FIA team principal Mohammed Ben Sulayem has urged Verstappen to publicly back Horner.

This has prompted speculation Verstappen could seek an early release from his contract. Mercedes is seeking a replacement for Lewis Hamilton next year and the reigning champion would be an obvious target.

Russell said he would understand the team seeking to hire Verstappen. “I think any team want to have the best driver line-up possible and right now Max is the best driver on the grid,” he said.

“So if any team had a chance to sign Max they’ll 100% be taking it. I think the question is more on the other side, on his side and on Red Bull’s side, obviously so much going on there, we don’t know truly what’s going on behind closed doors and ultimately it’s none of our business right now. But it would be exciting.”

He said his performance alongside Hamilton shows he could compete with Verstappen. “This is my third season now alongside Lewis, greatest driver of all time, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job alongside him.

“So whoever were to line up alongside me next year or the years to come I welcome anybody, welcome a challenge. You would want to go against the best.

“But ultimately for me, just focus on myself. I believe in myself. I believe I can beat anybody on the grid. You’ve just got to have that mentality. So having Lewis as my benchmark the last couple of years, it’s been a pretty good benchmark for sure.”

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Keith Collantine
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45 comments on “Russell would welcome “best driver on the grid” Verstappen at Mercedes”

  1. Electroball76
    6th March 2024, 16:10

    Why would Max want the seat that Lewis didn’t want?
    This just sounds like more mind games and attempted leverage from the various parties.

    1. Maybe the Ford PT just sucks big time.
      From therefore, Max has two options regarding a competitive team, come 2026: Merc or Ferrari.
      Ferrari is out of the question at least until 2028.
      So really, it Red Bull is guaranteed to strugle when the new rules come into play, Mercedes is his only option of a viable chance at the title.

      1. Exactly.
        Hamilton wanted to try something new.

      2. An Sionnach
        8th March 2024, 3:01

        If Ferrari has the best engine and car for 2026 they should definitely hire Max so that himself and Lewis take points off each other and Alonso wins the championship in an Aston with a GP2 engine!

  2. What would Hamilton fans say when Max beats Russel the way he did with Albon. Gasly. And Perez?

    1. The car is designed for Max.

      1. The car is designed to be fast. Newey’s McLarens were also pointy and Kimi thrived in them.
        It wouldn’t make sense to design a slower, more stable car just to suit the no.2 driver.

        1. I know. But that is what people will say when Max beats Russell.

          1. My bad. Yes, that is indeed what they will say. If the other driver can’t handle the faster car then they are automatically inferior.

      2. Midwit take

    2. If.

      He couldn’t do that with Sainz, nor with Ricciardo.

      Russell is closer to, or even ahead of, those.

      1. LOL
        imagine thinking gaging how Max faired against Sainz in 2015 (or Ricciardo in 2016) is in any way shape or form indicative of how he would fair against Russell in 2026.
        LOL, LMAO even.

        1. Max beat sainz in 2015? He scored nearly double sainz points.

        2. ROFLMAO, even!

      2. Copium.

    3. Why would they say anything? George is yet to beat Lewis in a championship.
      If what you mean is: if Max wins the championship in a Merc? That would be hard for Lewis and his fans for sure.

      1. George is yet to beat Lewis in a championship.


      2. I suppose you’re a very new F1 viewer. Russel beat Hamilton as soon as he came to Mercedes, in their first year together (which was only two years ago). I don’t think he was better, but he did score more points and he was often quicker of the two (he probably is a bit quicker still).
        But I don’t imagine that either would beat Perez the way Verstappen does for sure. I was pretty convinced that Max is the best driver on the grid years before he won his first title, especially since he became more mature (he did join when he was 17, mind you).

    4. what would Hamilton fans say when Max turns out to be another Seb and without his magic Adrianmobile he’s fairly ordinary and George beats him?

      We’ll be nice about it, obviously :)

      1. We’ll be nice about it, obviously :)

        I don’t think that is the tongue-in-cheek emoji :‑J you needed to use. :)

        1. Lewis expects us to be nice, and not kick poor Max fans when they’re down :)

      2. He’ll be called a Newey merchant although admittedly anyone with an ounce of F1 knowledge will see the obvious difference in skill between Vettel and Verstappen .

    5. An Sionnach
      8th March 2024, 2:52

      Lewis was trying different setups to help the team and George wasn’t doing this because trying good setups doesn’t help the team!

  3. I hadn’t considered this possibility for even a Nano-Second.

    Looks like the Silly Season is going to be even more insane than usual this year :)

  4. Of course he would, but why would Verstappen leave the team with the best car on the grid to go to a team that is currently on a downward trajectory?

    1. Downward trajectory? They are possibly the second fastest car right now. Literally neck-to-neck with Ferrari.
      Besides. It is quite obvious they are not thinking about the current state of things, but rather the future (2026).

  5. An Sionnach
    6th March 2024, 16:57

    For 2026, Mercedes or Ferrari might be better bets. Honda will have less data with just Aston and their commitment to F1 isn’t guaranteed. Still, they could be a team to watch, too, but only if there’s a situation where everyone but Honda messes up the engine. That said, it’s best for someone like Max to stay put and make a move in 2027 if Ford and RBPT drop the ball.

    Max has said that loyalty is the most important thing for him, so support for those close to him may tie his hands.

  6. Alpine should try to get Max. They’d be unbeatable then.

  7. That’s the right attitude from Russell.

    It’s incomprehensible that F1 teams, who can only field two cars (except Red Bull) and who regularly pay their teams principals extremely lucrative salaries to manage the team are so utterly afraid of having two A-listers in their cars. It’s such a cowardly approach, and it’s damaging to F1.

    Mercedes may have been dominating with detuned engines in 2014, but at least there was a title fight…

    It’s not Pérez’ fault that he’s not good enough to challenge Verstappen.

    It is Red Bull’s fault for putting him in a spot where people expect him to.

    1. @MichaelN, I have this theory, and I welcome dissent on this: I don’t think it’s possible for a team to build two cars to suit two different driving styles and win the championship. Certainly not in the cost-cap era. I don’t think that was the case with Hamilton and Rosberg: I think they had very similar driving styles… and in any case Merc was so far ahead of the field, they could have detuned one car per race and still won.
      But if my theory is correct, implicitly one driver will always be better suited to the car and the other disadvantaged. There is no doubt that the Red Bull cars are built around Max. This is in no way diminishing his talent, but he gets what he wants. Mercs have been built around Lewis and I think the Ferraris around Leclerc

      1. Sure, one driver will be better able to use the cars. That happens. Even the best have their preferences, and they too run up against limitations. Some (like Räikkönen) more often than others (like Alonso). But countless designers have refuted that they build cars around a particular driver. They just try to make the fastest possible car, and then it’s up to the drivers to make use of it.

    2. The Dolphins
      6th March 2024, 18:09

      It’s such a cowardly approach, and it’s damaging to F1

      It’s literally been that way for decades; I don’t think it’s as damaging to the sport as you think it is. It stinks that it’s the way it is, I agree, especially when looking back some of the most interesting seasons were when two teammates were battling to the end.

      To play devil’s advocate: a team principal’s role is to make decisions which benefit the team, as such it really doesn’t benefit the team to pay a premium for two A-list drivers and to have them battling and risking points, which is why some of the most successful principals have opted for the #1/#2 role strategy. Think back to 2007 when Lewis and Fernando were taking points off each other: combined they had 8 wins to Kimi’s 6 wins, Kimi suffered 2 DNFs to the McLaren pair only suffering 1 apiece. In the end Kimi beat them to the Drivers’ Championship by 2 points. Made for a thrilling season for me but not once did I envy Ron Dennis nor did he earn himself any favours within the organization for that decision (amongst others!)

      1. That is certainly true, there are rare cases where it can be a hindrance. But in 2010 Red Bull had a similar situation with Webber and Vettel, and in the end the good finishes of both were able to take valuable points off Ferrari’s Alonso – so it can go both ways.

        It’s literally been that way for decades; I don’t think it’s as damaging to the sport as you think it is. It stinks that it’s the way it is, I agree, especially when looking back some of the most interesting seasons were when two teammates were battling to the end.

        I guess we’ll never know what we didn’t get to see.

        But take all the dissatisfaction about F1 now, and imagine a scenario where Red Bull’s two drivers fought it out over the past two years: there’s still be grumbling about the other teams, but there’d also be excitement.

        That seasons like 2016, even 2014, 2010, 2007, 1996, and so on, still stand out suggests that F1 is missing out in other years.

        1. “But in 2010 Red Bull had a similar situation with Webber and Vettel, and in the end the good finishes of both were able to take valuable points off Ferrari’s Alonso – so it can go both ways.”

          A far better example is Bottas being the wingman to Lewis – taking far more points from competitors than from Lewis . To that extend Perez is doing a poor job – if other teams get closer a strong wingman becomes more important.

  8. The Dolphins
    6th March 2024, 17:53

    Verstappen to Mercedes
    Hamilton to Ferrari
    Sainz to Red Bull
    Make it so, Mohammed Ben Sulayem

    1. Alonso and Sainz to Red Bull.
      That would be awesome.

  9. seriously, Max isn’t going anywhere. Jos is out but Max is a big boy now and he doesn’t need him. In fact secretly he’ll probably be glad, like everybody else eventually has to get free of their dad. Anybody would like to be in an F1 garage so they often have to be kicked out, but from Max’s point of view Jos is just baggage

    1. You are speaking from a perspective of a rational person.

      Note that relationship of Max and Jos has been very complicated and getting rid of Jos may not be possible.

      1. complicated yes, tho Jos is suddenly ‘doing rallies’ already isn’t he, while Max is winning F1 races, so at this point it’s Christian’s garage and Jos isn’t invited. Yes Jos used to dump Max on the drive when he didn’t do well when he was little, but let’s see how Max copes now he’s 26 and rich. I think he might quite like it, I mean that was the last word in conditional love, r soul

  10. I can’t see this as anything more than Jos wanting to up the ante in his positioning against Horner, using the prospect of Max leaving as leverage in his feud with the Red Bull team boss. There’s no substance to this and I highly suspect that Jos is wanting as much media attention as possible to add fuel to the fire

    1. That’s probably right but these things can backfire. Horner has the backing of his corporation and therefore a great hand in this “game”: the championship winning car for 2025.

      This is a power struggle – very emotional game. A similar thing happened in 1996 between Williams and Hill. Guess how it ended for Hill and his advisors ;)

      1. I suppose Hill can take some solace in the fact that 1997 was also the last time Williams won anything of note.

  11. I think the option that is overlooked is that in 2026 Max will retire from F1. He loves to race but I feel he is so put off by the circus it’s evolving in he’ll switch to endurance racing.

  12. As said in the last couple of races in 2021 – F1 turns from sports to just-a-show, and could be renamed to Keeping up with the Verstappens. FIA and Liberty both wanted a change, so there we are.

  13. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    7th March 2024, 14:41

    “I think any team want to have the best driver line-up possible and right now Max is the best driver on the grid,” he said.

    Okay, let me offer my 2 cents.

    Question #1 Why would Russell ever want Verstappen alongside him?

    There’s a chance he’ll score less points, lose wins and championships and a very high chance that he will not be able to get a raise for the next 5-10 years as Verstappen.

    Question #2 Why make the statement when you already have a strong teammate?

    Russell already has Hamilton as his teammate for the final 3rd season together so it’s not like he’s paired with a weak driver. The claim of “the best driver on the grid” now seems more like a dig at Hamilton than a compliment to Max to try and get under his head a bit.

    If anything, next year Russell would want a weaker driver so that he can establish himself as the #1 driver and ensure he wins the WDC, if Mercedes can give him a good car.

    Is it possible that Wolff asked Russell to say that to try and bring Max to Verstappen next year? That would be awkward for Russell if that happened.

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