F1 rookie George Russell seeking release from pressure of the paddock

George Russell is competing in his debut F1 season. (Credit: Getty Images)

Every driver in Formula 1 needs a release valve, something to escape the pressures and demands of arguably the most physically and mentally demanding sport in the world.

For Lewis Hamilton, it’s music and fashion, among other things. For Sebastian Vettel, it’s his family and the protective wall he has built around them. For Lando Norris, it’s sim racing.

For George Russell, approaching the end of what has been a tough debut season with Williams, he is still figuring out what might serve him well. He concedes to being “a sporty guy” and, at this stage, he is leaning towards golf.

That seems noble enough, but then he adds: “I’m rubbish at it and I’m not into it at all at the moment.”

It begs the question, why he would want to take up a sport that is known to be uniquely frustrating?

“I’m not doing enough to relax at the moment,” explained Russell.

"My mentality coming into this year, because I didn't know what to fully expect being a Formula One driver, was that I just wanted to give it absolutely everything and review what it takes to be an F1 driver at the end of the year.

"I really understand now that I need to find something to get me away from F1, to relax, to take my mind off it.

"I'm still yet to find that but it will probably end up being golf.”

Russell admits he's still learning to unwind away from Formula 1. (Credit: Getty Images)

The 21-year-old says he has “probably played three or four times this year, and I'm not very good.”

But as with the struggles he has faced in driving at the back of the grid with Williams, Russell’s character will lend itself to overcoming whatever golf might throw at him.

He describes himself as “calm, calculated, very dedicated, probably more so than I realised myself”, and so far that has stood him in good stead. It will do so on any golf course, too.

"At the moment I'm non-stop because when you get back from a race, go see the team, head into the simulator, do the correlation, have a marketing event here and there, meetings with whoever, then you do your training and before you know it, you're off again. It's intense,” explained Russell.

“As I'm a sporty guy, everything I like is quite active. I do various things as part of my fitness, so arguably, it's still work, and not something I would do on a day off.

“With golf, I do think if I put my mind to it, get lessons, then do it properly then there's no reason why I can't do it.

"I'm not going to be Tiger Woods, but if I at least hit the ball straight and not end up in the trees every other shot, that will be fine.”

On the books of Mercedes now for almost three years, Russell’s eyes have been opened by five-time champion Hamilton and his fellow Briton’s dedication to not only his duty at the track but also how he has managed to discover himself off it.

Russell has spent much of this season fighting at the back of the pack. (Credit: Getty Images)

"That's something I really admire and have learned from Lewis,” added Russell.

"Firstly, I couldn't believe how much work and effort he puts in over the race weekends.

"You just presume he turns up and relies on his natural talent to sort everything out but he puts in so much effort and work.

“But then it's so clear that when the chequered flag falls he finds a way to take his mind away from things, to relax, to recover, and be ready to fight again in a week's time."

Like Hamilton, and many other drivers who devoted themselves to the cause throughout their formative years in order to make F1, he feels it is time to do something to release some steam.

"I know the sacrifices I've given up, which I believed to be normal in wanting to reach my goal,” said Russell.

"The biggest thing was not having a normal teenage social life, even now in my early 20s, which people see as the golden years of going out and enjoying yourself every Saturday night.

"I look at others who are out partying, drinking every other weekend, or not on a good diet, or not training hard enough.

"But what I do is what I presume as normal if you want to become a successful racing driver.

"Since 14 I've put my whole life into getting into Formula One, and dedicated everything to that because that's what I wanted.

"From my side at the time, I just thought it was normal, but perhaps it wasn't.

"But this was my goal, where I wanted to be, so from my side, it's not even a sacrifice. But I do understand it, and now looking back, it was."

The young British driver was on the books of Mercedes for three years. (Credit: Getty Images)

Do not think for a second that Russell is resting on his laurels now he has a seat in F1 and has been confirmed for a second season with Williams.

Fighting at the back of the field, often with only his team-mate Robert Kubica for company, naturally falls far short of where Russell would like to be.

An 11th-place finish at July’s German Prix is so far the best Russell has to show for his efforts in 2019.

"I've worked my whole life to be in Formula 1,” said Russell.

“Everybody loves winning races, winning championships, but I am in Formula 1. I am one of the 20 drivers in the world in this position. There are hundreds of thousands of people aspiring to be in Formula 1 who would take my seat in a heartbeat.

"Just being here is almost a victory before you have even started, and the racing is the next thing. This is obviously my first year in Formula One, and I am planning on being here for a long time to come.”

Russell’s links to Mercedes could play a crucial role in the future, in particular, with both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas out of contract at the end of next season.

Although we have obviously not seen the best of Russell this season due to Williams’ issues, he is in the right place should an opportunity come calling at the right time.

"At the end of the day, every driver on this grid wants to be in a world championship-winning car,” said Russell.

“It's no secret Mercedes is that car, and I think every driver on this grid, if they got an opportunity to jump in that car, they'd take it.

"Obviously being a Mercedes driver you pay a little bit of attention but I don't like to look too far into the future.

"I like to go race by race, and I know if I perform to the level I know I'm capable of, race by race, week by week, then the opportunities will come later down the line."

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