George Russell unimpressed by ‘No.1 driver’ claim amid Max Verstappen to Mercedes rumours

Max Verstappen has been strongly linked with a move to Mercedes as a replacement for the departing Lewis Hamilton

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George Russell believes a team can be successful in both Formula 1 championships even with two ‘number one drivers’ amid ongoing rumours that Max Verstappen could join him at Mercedes from Red Bull.

The reigning triple-drivers’ champion is contracted to Red Bull until 2028 but has exit clauses that would enable Verstappen to depart sooner if he wants – which could be the case especially after Adrian Newey’s shock exit from the team.

That bombshell combined with the Horner controversy over alleged inappropriate and controlling behaviour with a female team employee still hanging over the team and concerns over Red Bull‘s powertrain for the 2026 rule change means Verstappen could genuinely jump ship.

Lewis Hamilton‘s vacated Mercedes seat would be an obvious destination and many would expect the Dutchman to outshine Russell, but he hit back pointing to his record against the seven-time champion.

“When I joined Mercedes I was joining a teammate who’d won over 100 races, and six championships with this team and in the course of these two-and-a-half years I think I’ve fared pretty well against him,” Russell told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“So I don’t think I need to prove anything to Mercedes or to anybody else in this paddock, I know what I’m capable of and ultimately the results speak for themselves. Nobody knows who’s the best driver out there, you can only go as fast as your car allows you so everyone’s judged on their teammate and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good teammate.

“I want to prove more, I want to show more of course and I want to fight for championships but having been teammates with Lewis now for three years I don’t feel that I need to prove my worth.

“I think you can get two drivers on a similar level versus one driver in a team that’s outright quicker than their teammate you’re maybe say taking points off one another as a pairing but if you win a race and your teammate’s second rather than your championship rival in another team I think the points work themselves out so not really.”

Russell has no input on next Mercedes teammate

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell celebrate second and third at the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix by Steve Etherington/ Mercedes AMG Media

Nico Rosberg was the last driver to win an F1 title against another champion teammate in the form of Hamilton at Mercedes in 2016.

Before Hamilton did the same against the German for the two seasons prior, Damon Hill‘s 1996 crown was the most recent example, so it’s certainly a rarity in modern F1.

Russell beat Hamilton (and took Mercedes‘ only win) in his debut season with the team though and sits 14 points ahead after five rounds, and said he would welcome the chance Verstappen on level terms.

“Toto’s always keeping me up to date, he doesn’t need to ask my view or my opinion, I’ve made it clear that I’d welcome anybody,” Russell added. “I think having chance to sign someone like Max, every team would go for it and as I’ve said before, I’d love to have that opportunity to go against Max.

“I feel privileged to have the chance to be teammates with Lewis, who is statistically the greatest driver of all time and week-in, week-out battling out with him. So to get the chance to do that with someone like Max would be great for me personally.

“I believe in myself and my abilities but I think for Mercedes it’s of course a long-term project, we’ve got big rules coming out for 2026, it’s important to have harmony between ’25 and 2026 but ultimately I think it goes down to 2000 people at the factory, the engine, the chassis, the new fuels that are coming that are going to make the big difference.

“But of course, as I said, if we could sign Max then who wouldn’t?”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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