George Russell has lost his “fun” demeanour since joining Mercedes at the beginning of this year according to Lando Norris.
The former Williams driver, who is now leading teammate Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship, has made a significant impression in 2022 by placing in the top five in each of his race finishes.
Norris believes that Russell hasn’t been able to fully express himself because of the atmosphere at Mercedes.
“My manager, my trainer, my parents, have always tried to keep me as me, rather than try to shape me,” the McLaren driver told the Press Association. “I see other drivers get shaped more because of who they are with, the teams they are with, and I don’t think that is a good thing. It takes away their personality.”
“Growing up with George for instance, was a lot of fun. He was a great person, but it is different at Mercedes… a different vibe and a different atmosphere. I just don’t see as fun a side of him.”
“George is a great person, and I feel like the personality he had a few years ago, he would be even more popular. I don’t think it is Mercedes’ fault but the pressure of being with Mercedes, and having Lewis as a teammate, is never going to be an easy thing.”
“You don’t want to be seen to be having a fun time and playing around, but on the other side there are no complaints because George is doing an amazing job this year, so it is working for him.”
Russell discussed his first three years in Formula One at Williams and how he felt stuck with the Grove-based team in a recent Beyond the Grid podcast interview.
“I think when we signed with Williams back in 2018, this was a team, bearing in mind, that had just spent three years scoring podiums, finishing P3, P3, P5 in the constructors’, and then they had a very bad year in 2018 where they finished last,” the Mercedes driver explained via Formula1.com.
“But we thought that this was a team that, at the time, can bounce back from this, and they’ll be back in the P5 to P3 region of competitiveness. So, we all sort of agreed that three years was a good period, fighting for points, maybe for podiums.
“In hindsight, three years driving on my own at the back of the grid was too long. But, unfortunately, Claire did quite a good job at the contract negotiations, and there was sort of no way out.”
The Brit also acknowledges that, despite stepping in at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, an earlier transfer to Mercedes may have backfired.
“When I look at this with the benefit of hindsight, I think joining Mercedes last year or even in 2020 would’ve been incredibly tough, because going up against Lewis when that car has been evolved to suit his style of driving over so many years, that was his baby as such,” Russell added.
“Whereas now it’s a fresh sheet of paper for everybody, everybody is starting from scratch, and this was probably the right time.”