Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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George Russell’s impressive performances for Williams have suggested that he could emulate the successes of Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton over the course of his career, according to Dave Robson, head of vehicle performance at the historic British outfit. Russell has established himself as one of F1’s best young drivers since joining the grid two years ago, showing flashes of championship-winning potential in the process.
The King’s Lynn native has consistently outperformed team-mate Nicholas Latifi, who is still yet to qualify ahead of his Williams colleague.
Russell also impressed with an admirable drive for Mercedes at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix, with Hamilton sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.
The former narrowly missed out on pole position to Valtteri Bottas, but surged past the Finn on the first lap and looked set to fight for a maiden victory before a botched pit-stop and a slow puncture ended any chance of a remarkable podium.
Russell has been widely tipped to replace Hamilton or Bottas at Mercedes in time for next season, with all three drivers out of contract at the end of the current campaign.
Robson, who previously worked at McLaren, has suggested that the Williams man is shaping up to assert himself as F1’s dominant force in years to come.
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He admitted to Motorsport.com that he sees the same spark in Russell that Hamilton showed as a budding talent, claiming that the 23-year-old has every chance of achieving similar levels of glory in the near future.
“I think there are definitely some similarities there,” said Robson, who was Jenson Button’s race engineer between 2010 and 2012.
“And they were obvious from the first time I met George and we ran him in the simulator in Grove. Then we went up and ran him around the airfield in a road car.
“Again, there was something. There was something there. I think the talent is there.
“I think he is very close to Lewis and has the potential to get there, for sure.”
Robson witnessed Hamilton’s rise to F1 stardom during his time at McLaren, with the Stevenage-born racer winning his first Drivers’ Championship title in 2008, his second year on the grid.
Turning his attention away from Russell, the Williams chief recalled the precise moment he realised he was watching a future star in the making in Hamilton.
“I’ve obviously not worked with him for quite a few years, but it [the spark] is something he’s always had, I think,” added Robson.
“There is just that something about him. That special quality that you can’t really define.
“That was obvious right from when he was just a kid and [McLaren] took him testing at Elvington, going up and down the runway.
“He was bored stiff after 10 minutes. Whereas most kids, when you took them to Elvington, they were just chuffed to bits to be in an F1 car, even though they were just going up and down the runway.
“And he was different right from the beginning. He just has that talent and that tremendous attitude. So, take your hat off to him.
“He’s an annoying customer to have on the other side of the garage, for sure. But yeah, he’s a phenomenal talent.”
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