We Sat Down With George Russell Ahead Of Grand Prix Weekend
— 23 March 2024

We Sat Down With George Russell Ahead Of Grand Prix Weekend

— 23 March 2024
John McMahon
John McMahon

Nothing beats the buzz you’ll find in Melbourne ahead of Grand Prix weekend. But the energy in the room with George Russell — British racer who steers the mighty W15 for Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team — is nothing but relaxed.

His green room is a cocoon of calm in an otherwise chaotic weekend of press, brand obligations, training, and of course — actually driving the damn car come lights out on Sunday.

Greeted with a cool fist bump (“You alright, mate?”) George parks himself across from me ahead of his appearance at the IWC Chadstone boutique that same evening. Smiles on, eyes attentive — and of course, with his timepiece in full view of the cameras — we get straight into it with the man who’s always on the clock; be it his own, the FIA’s, or someone else’s.

John McMahon: George, give us your favourite moment from last season. If you had to pick just one.

George Russell: Crossing the line in Abu Dhabi to secure P2 for the team in the championship, for sure. There was such a tight battle with Ferrari for a number of races and when we went into that race it was sort of me and Charles battling it out — then suddenly, Perez came through quick and he had the five second penalty and it went down to half a second.

That was the difference between us finishing second in the championship or third in the championship, and that’s 2,000 people’s bonuses back at the factory as well. So that was a relief to secure that result for the team.

JM: What about the off-season? Favourite moment? Do you ever feel like you really switch off?

GR: I would say I managed to switch off for about a week during the off-season, which is pretty good. But I’ve always got racing on my mind and I’m always dropping my engineers messages and phone calls just with ideas I have of how we can improve. But I think my favourite moment was just seeing my niece and nephew. My sister had a child as well in the off season so that was a special moment. But just doing normal stuff, being a normal person is what I like the most.

JM: So you wore a few different watches from IWC last year, but it looks like the one you wore the most was the Ceratanium TOP GUN Double Chrono…

GR: Yeah that’s my favourite by far. I love it because when I joined Mercedes as a junior driver, that was the watch that I said I wanted. And when my first IWC arrived from the team it wasn’t that watch [laughs]. And it was only three years later that I managed to actually get my hands on that watch when I could afford it and I was actually a part of the Mercedes team. So it means something to me. I think it just looks really, really cool, doesn’t it? It’s not too out there but it’s got quite a sporty look to it, so you can wear it daily. It’s my go-to.

JM: If you had to pick a watch for traveling, a watch for the paddock, a watch for date night… where would you land?

GR: Hmm, for the paddock — probably what I’m wearing currently, the new Mercedes team watch, the Performance Chronograph from IWC. It’s similar to the TOP GUN in terms of the colour and the style, but the Petronas green details add a layer of depth. So that would definitely be my paddock watch. Date night, probably the Portugieser Annual Calendar. Keep it classy.

JM: And travel?

GR: I really like the — I can never pronounce it as gracefully as the Swiss — Ingenieur. It’s light, easy on the wrist, and fits under a cuff as well. For travelling you never want anything too bulky.

JM: Last year you did probably one of my all-time bucket list experiences. You embraced the Top Gun ethos in a RAF Typhoon fighter jet. It’s probably the only career that’s faster than an F1 car. Did it ever appeal to you, that career?

GR: It never appealed to me, but since having the experience of… Well, firstly, I just thought I was going to be a passenger. I didn’t know at the time they were going to let me fly. And getting the chance to actually fly it myself, I mean, experience of a lifetime, and would really love to get back up there, because it is like a Formula 1 car up in the skies.

JM: There are a lot of parallels, aren’t there?

GR: It’s so agile and quick. You’ve got the joystick in front of you, you just move it and the thing just rolls over instantly. It’s the same with an F1 car, when you’re traveling, you know, 330 km/h down the straight, you turn into the corner and you zoom immediately to the other side of the track.

You’re in the cockpit in both respects, but the team is like such a massive part of making that operation actually happen. There’s so much camaraderie between everybody. It was like a family away from home as it is for us in Formula 1. Awesome experience, so yeah, a lot of respect for what they’re doing.

John McMahon sits down with George Russell

JM: The inverse of that… what’s the most boring thing about being an F1 driver? You can say interviews like these, I won’t be offended.

GR: What do you think is the most boring thing about being an F1 driver?

JM: Probably interviews like these, no? Being pulled left, right and centre the whole time. How about time on a plane?

GR: I want to do the numbers but I reckon over the course of a year we would spend closing in on I’d go as far as almost a month a whole month on a plane. All of the flights within Europe alone, I’m doing probably five flights a week on average.

There are 4,000 people who travel the world for Formula 1, and it’s a very luxurious lifestyle on the face of it, but a lot of time away from home, away from loved ones, a lot of time zone shifts, brutal on the body, but you know we wouldn’t change it for the world because we love what we do. It’s the best job in the world.

JM: Let’s talk Vegas. It didn’t go quite according to plan for you last year, but was such a momentous occasion for the sport and to be under the lights. Talk us through that first time you drove the car down that strip.

GR: It was fast and bumpy, one hell of a ride. On the face of it, the circuit seemed pretty underwhelming, but when we drove it, it had a huge amount of character. It was great for racing and it was very challenging to drive — really low grip. We were the only category racing, so the track was very green and dusty, so for drivers it was a unique challenge.

I think in the race we were doing about 350 km/h, it was very difficult to spot the breaking points 120 metres out. When you’re racing in the dark, you’ve got the buildings between you, all the lights at such wild speeds, it was surreal.

JM: Aside from the obvious, do you have a personal goal for 2024 that gives us some sort of insight into the man that is George Russell? It could be getting better at Spanish on Duolingo

GR: [Laughs] My girlfriend would love that. No, just to enjoy the journey. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the competitive nature of the sport and the emotional rollercoaster that you go through, the highs and the lows. It’s a psychological toll on the body, so you need to turn that into good energy and positivity, happiness. And that’s what I’m gonna try and do a bit more of in 2024. We’ve all got this one life and you just need to maximise it and the days fly by.

JM: On that same thought then, you’ve got the likes of Fernando — who we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still racing when he’s 50 — and then you’ve got Nico who’s out on top after taking the championship. Are you a race until the body says no, kind of guy?

GR: I’ll be here for a long time. I don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest. I’m not one of these guys who has all of these interests outside the sport. Some people need their passions outside to disconnect as a way of enhancing their performance on the track, and I respect that. For me, my life is racing. But I’m far from achieving what I set out to and believe I’m capable of.

The seasons are becoming intense, very intense, and increasingly more challenging with the number of races. I’m fit and healthy and young at the moment, and I’m dealing with it absolutely fine, but I want to make sure that in 10 years’ time, when I’m 35 that I can deal with a 24 race calendar and I’m still fit and I’m still performing on the top of my game.

JM: When you get off the plane here in Melbourne, what excites you most about the weekend ahead?

GR: Those first laps and the first practice, that’s always a really exciting moment because you head into a race weekend with the unknown. We have an indication of what this weekend’s going to bring. We’re pretty confident a Red Bull is going to be at the sharp end of the grid.

We don’t know if we’re going to be up there fighting with them, if we’re going to be on the back foot, if the car’s going to be performing well, if I’m going to be performing well and those you get an indication after about three laps on track of how your weekend’s gonna pan out and it’s always a really exciting moment, the unknown. I just can’t wait to jump into that car again.

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John McMahon
John McMahon is a founding member of the Boss Hunting team who honed his craft by managing content across website and social. Now, he's the publication's General Manager and specialises in bringing brands to life on the platform.


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