We all know Formula 1 drivers have one of the coolest jobs in the world, but it can be easy to underestimate the dedication it takes to be competitive — even away from the track. Mercedes’ George Russell is a perfect example, using his free time during his first year at the team to study up on how to be a frontrunner.
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“I think I needed to have this year under my belt to see what it takes to be a Mercedes Formula 1 driver competing at the front for podiums and hopefully for race victories,” Russell told Jalopnik during an interview that took place during the Las Vegas Grand Prix fan festival on Nov. 5. “Once you understand what it takes, I think you can then dabble into other things that bring some interest to you.”
With a new set of regulations introduced for the 2022 season, Russell has had something of a difficult transition to Mercedes. The team has lost its once-dominant form, which means those coveted podiums and race victories are all the more difficult to achieve. That also means Russell is thinking more about his on-track abilities when he’s off the track, and that he uses his free time to decompress, not pick up a new skill.
“I think I’m a pretty down to earth person away from a track, and what I enjoy most is spending time with my family,” he said. “My parents live in the countryside and I like going there to have walks in the field. It’s a really good way to balance the craziness of the Formula 1 lifestyle.
“Today we’re in Las Vegas. I flew in yesterday, I’m flying back today, then I’m going to Brazil next week. Sometimes you need that quiet walk through the countryside to bring some peace to your life.”
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All that being said, Russell knows that a healthy work-life balance can be key to maintaining on-track form.
“Lewis [Hamilton] has so many interests away from racing,” he mused. “It’s a good way of taking your mind away from the sport and getting yourself psychologically in a good space to then come back and perform at your best. When you go through this rollercoaster of emotions, you need something sometimes just to take your mind away from it.”
For this first year, though, Russell is soaking it all in and, as the season has progressed, he’s started exploring what it would take to learn a new language. A more competitive Mercedes in 2023 would be just what Russell needs to hone new skills — but for now, his focus is entirely on getting Mercedes to that competitive point.