George Russell says being picked out by Fernando Alonso as the leading star among Formula 1’s younger generation “means a hell of a lot”.
Russell has routinely impressed since making his F1 debut in 2019 with Williams, never losing a qualifying head-to-head against a teammate across 34 grands prix.
It has previously led to comparisons between Russell and how two-time F1 world champion Alonso performed during the early part of his career for the backmarker Minardi squad in 2001.
In an interview with Sky Sports ahead of his F1 comeback in 2021, Alonso was asked which of the young drivers currently racing in F1 he rated the highest.
“They all came with very nice preparation as well with driver academies that build the performance and the talent, helping them from a very young age, and now they are doing their job,” Alonso said.
“From all of them, George Russell is the one that surprises me every weekend, how he’s driving the Williams [with] zero mistakes. I’m really surprised about his natural speed.
“So if I have to say one name, Russell for the future is going to be my pick.”
Russell put in another impressive display in qualifying at Imola on Saturday, reaching Q2 for the eighth time this season en route to 13th on the grid.
The Mercedes-backed junior said he had heard Alonso’s kind words, and was appreciative.
“That means a hell of a lot to me, coming from a guy like Fernando,” Russell said. “I’m looking forward to racing him next year. I’m sure he’s going to be flying. I appreciate it.”
Alonso’s praise for Russell was echoed by Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson, who said the Briton was “exceptionally good”, particularly after a difficult 2019 that saw the team sit adrift from the rest of the field.
“He has stepped up, obviously the car’s helped him a lot over the last year, but even so, I think he was very good at making the most of the situation last year,” Robson said.
“I think in some of that adversity, he probably learned. Hopefully he’ll look back in five or 10 years’ time and think actually that year last year was actually very valuable, miserable though it was at times, but definitely he has stepped up.
“He is really valuable. He’s got the confidence, and now experience, to really guide us. He’s got a lot more a lot more to learn, but undoubtedly has stepped up.
“I think he is a genuine talent, a massive asset to the team.”
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