Formula 1 Racing

Why Russell’s toughest year in F1 hasn’t got him down

Hamilton had the edge on Russell in 2023

That comes down to typical sportsperson bravado – but the psychological boost of such an approach, to take the positives and shut out the negativity, has long been clear at the top level of all sporting echelons.

So, when Russell said in an interview with select media including at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that, “no doubt, it’s been probably the toughest season I’ve ever had psychologically”, his way of coping with it was about “bouncing back from missed opportunities”.

These cover his crashes in Canada and Singapore, late Monaco off, and clash with Max Verstappen in Las Vegas.

That was in turn followed by perhaps Russell’s strongest performance of 2023 overall – where he battled through illness to take advantage of Sergio Perez’s penalty and end up third in the Abu Dhabi finale.

“This is when you push yourself,” Russell added of his mindset ending last year, as Mercedes now prepares for its 2024 campaign.

“I could comfortably lift my foot off the gas pedal and drive a percent below the limit and I could sit here right now and tell you that I wouldn’t make a single mistake.

“And probably when I sit through my championship years [in GP3 and Formula 2 in 2017 and 2018 respectively], I probably wasn’t being pushed as much as I’m pushing myself now.

“I’m purposely trying to push myself further and beyond, and I’m not satisfied with just being on par with my team-mate in qualifying or whatever it may be – [like in 2022 when] we were very even across the whole season.

Hamilton had the edge on Russell in 2023

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

“I want to be ahead. And that’s what I’m pushing myself for. And perhaps that’s been a small reason for contributing to a couple more mistakes.”

Russell feels “you look back on seasons like this and you grow”, but he’s ultimately “thankful [2023] was not a season where we’re fighting for a championship victory”.

That mainly centred Mercedes’ car performance problems with the still recalcitrant W14, which continued on the design development path established in the W13 and its now abandoned ‘zeropod’ upper aerodynamic surfaces concept.

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But Russell is also “confident next season will be very different”, because “I know the sort of driver who I am”.

He continued: “I know one year like this is not going to take away from all of my other consistent seasons,…

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