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‘It would be exciting’ – Russell says he’d have no concerns over Mercedes signing ‘best driver on the grid’ Verstappen

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 06: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes attends the Drivers

George Russell says that he would welcome the “challenge” if Max Verstappen were to join Mercedes as his team mate in the future amid rumours the Dutchman could be an option for the Silver Arrows.

While Verstappen has a contract to race with Red Bull through to the end of 2028, it has not stopped speculation about his future from arising, with many wondering if the three-time world champion could potentially link up with the Mercedes outfit one day, particularly in light of Lewis Hamilton’s shock switch to Ferrari for 2025.

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Asked ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix how he would feel about having Verstappen as his team mate at the squad, Russell responded: “As I said last week in Bahrain, this is my third season now alongside Lewis, the greatest driver of all time, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job alongside him, so whoever were to line up alongside me next year or the years to come, I welcome anybody.

“I welcome a challenge. You always want to go against the best but ultimately, for me, [I’m] just focused on myself. I believe in myself, I believe I can beat anybody on the grid and you’ve just got to have that mentality.

“As I said, having Lewis as my benchmark for the last couple of years has been a pretty good benchmark for sure.”

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen claimed victory in the 2024 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

Pushed further on whether he could realistically see Verstappen signing for Mercedes, Russell suggested that any team on the grid would want to have the reigning world champion in their ranks if given the opportunity.

"I think any team wants to have the best driver line-up possible, and right now Max is the best driver on the grid, so if any team had a chance to sign Max they’ll 100 per cent be taking it," said the Briton. "I guess [it] would be exciting."

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In the meantime Russell is focused on the 2024 season ahead and will be hoping for a better race in Jeddah. After a strong showing for Mercedes in Free Practice 2 at the season-opener in Bahrain, the team did not seem to match this pace throughout the rest of the weekend.

Russell ultimately finished Saturday’s race in P5 after the W15 was affected by issues with cooling, but believes he could have been in contention for a podium without this problem.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Russell believes he could have fought for a podium in Bahrain had his car not been affected by cooling issues

“I think the conclusions we drew [from Bahrain] were [that] the car has potential,” Russell commented. “I think when we saw the pace on FP2, that was genuine, Lewis and I were P1 and P2.

“I think probably not everybody turned up but we were genuinely fast, and then in the race we had some really big cooling issues that caught us by surprise.

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“We know there’s at least a 15-second loss just in the battery and the power, and probably more after you consider the effect it had on the tyres. Just an extra couple of seconds in stint one when I had Checo [Sergio Perez] behind me would have been pretty handy, so I think we would have been in the fight for P2, for the podium with Checo and Carlos [Sainz], but definitely we didn’t show our true potential.”

Russell says that the cooling issue was a “miscalculation” rather than something that needs fixing and, while he is hopeful that it won’t happen again in Jeddah, stated that the team will run further tests on it during Thursday’s free practice sessions.

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