George Russell Isn’t Ready to Lead Mercedes F1

George Russell may have started the 2024 Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix from pole position, but the Mercedes driver struggled to make the most of changeable race conditions to maintain that lead. Instead, a series of lock-ups and contact with other drivers meant Russell could only finish in third place. Not a bad result, of course—but certainly not one befitting of next year’s Mercedes team leader. With Lewis Hamilton heading off to Scuderia Ferrari in 2025, Russell is naturally set to inherit Hamilton’s role as team leader—a role that will become particularly critical should Mercedes confirm the rumors that it intends to sign teenage racer Kimi Antonelli. Getty The team leader role isn’t strictly defined by any metrics, but it’s a critical one nonetheless. The lead driver from each team is the one around whom the team centers its strategy, with the assumption that this is the driver most capable of either securing a World Drivers’ Championship or of securing the highest possible finish in the World Constructors’ Championship. The team lead is generally the most experienced driver on the team and one that can be trusted to offer legitimate critical feedback to the team during each race. For years, Mercedes’ lead driver has been Lewis Hamilton; together, the duo secured six WDCs and eight WCCs. The British driver wasn’t always the most level-headed, nor did he necessarily always make the right call strategy-wise, but Hamilton’s success rate made him an icon—even if the past several years have been a struggle. With Hamilton gone, Russell will become the most experienced Mercedes driver, which means he should be counted on to revitalize the German marque and return it to the top step of the podium. I know I’m not the only one who has had high hopes for Russell. During his tenure at Williams, Russell played a key role in keeping the team moving forward; he often outperformed his more experienced teammate Robert Kubica during his rookie season, and drivers like Nicholas Latifi were simply no match for Russell. Plus, several deeply impressive drives during his junior formula career placed him head and shoulders above the rest of the competition—such as his drive from 12th to victory at the second 2018 Formula 2 event in Baku, or his one-off pole-to-victory domination at a 2014 Formula Renault Eurocup event in Jerez. And Russell still certainly has the potential to make magic; he’s just going to need to work out how he wants to achieve that goal.  On the final lap of the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix, for example, Russell looked stunning as he hounded Lando Norris for second place; then he clipped the wall at Turn 10 and sent his Mercedes into the barrier. Instead of maintaining a podium position, he was classified in 16th, well out of the points. Getty There was also his embarrassing crash under safety car conditions at the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. He had fought up to 10th place in his Williams when he spun trying to warm up his tires. Russell crashed, depriving himself and his team of a potential points-paying position. And there was also the moment during the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix that became a meme; Russell, ever the litigator behind the wheel, called his team to ask if anyone was reporting rain. The droplets he spotted on his visor, though, were drops of his own sweat. Russell, though, was keen on a potential race day shakeup, and even though the mix-up was harmless, it was yet another example of the British driver’s almost desperate determination to spot and exploit a loophole that his competitors had missed.  Thankfully for Russell—and for Mercedes—the British driver’s occasional foibles could easily become his strengths. Russell’s driving style is at once cerebral and daring, which can be an unstoppable combo when used effectively. Think of drivers like Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio; they were able to blend seemingly incompatible driving styles in order to become stars. It just took a while for them to make it happen. Getty Right now, Russell has all the right elements, but his execution could still use some work. He’s able to reason behind the wheel and make strategy suggestions based on race conditions… but he also has a tendency to get a little too clever and put himself in risky situations because he’s simply trying to do too much. He can maintain a level head through countless stressful situations… but he also has a breaking point where he seems to lose his ability to think rationally. He can be decisive behind the wheel… but as the pressure mounts, he also tends to fall apart and make risky moves that can either end his own race or harm someone else’s.  George Russell is so close to making magic happen. He has all the right ingredients at hand to transform into an exceptional racer, but right now, he’s using all the wrong amounts. Without a serious effort to refine his racing style, he’s going to flounder in the role of Mercedes team leader. Thankfully, he still has 15 Grands Prix remaining in the 2024 season to hone his craft before the weight of a leadership role falls completely on his shoulders.  Got a tip? Email us at