Alonso: Russell is ‘very, very impressive’
By Mat Coch
Monday 14th June, 2021 - 1:18pm
Fernando Alonso has labelled Williams driver George Russell as “very, very impressive”.
The two-time world champion spoke highly of the young Englishman, who looks set to join the factory Mercedes team next season.
Currently in his third season of Formula 1, Russell has earned a reputation as something of a qualifying specialist.
“I said also last year when I was following the sport at home, I think he has been very, very impressive,” Alonso said of Russell.
“We saw in the Williams, that we know that is not a competitive package, okay [it’s] better this year but not in the last two.
“And even though, I think he was putting in something special every weekend, and that was nice to watch at home and that’s something that always you get impressed [by].”
Alonso’s Formula 1 debut came with Minardi in 2001, where he was similarly identified as a star of the future.
He then spent a year on the sidelines, testing with Renault, before rejoining the grid in 2003, ending Michael Schumacher’s domination of the 2000s with back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.
Russell’s first opportunity in competitive machinery came at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix, when he substituted for Lewis Hamilton following a positive COVID-19 result.
It was a starring performance, qualifying strongly in the unfamiliar car before leading much of the race.
It was one he should by rights have won, but for a Mercedes mix-up in the pits and a late puncture as he began charging his way through the field thereafter.
“Obviously, the opportunity with the Mercedes, I think was good enough to show not only the people that we were watching at home, I think it was a real opportunity for everyone to watch what a driver with the talent of George can do with a winning car,” Alonso opined.
“[He] nearly won the first race on the first opportunity he had.
“That, I think, was a proof for many people, not only for the few that we knew how good he was, I think that race in Bahrain was enough to open [the eyes of] many, many millions of people.”
With both Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas out of contract at the end of the season, Russell has been strongly tipped with a move to the all-conquering operation.
It’s a move Williams boss Jost Capito all but acknowledged earlier this year when he suggested his team would be unable to retain the 23-year-old for 2022.