Formula One: Russell shines but rivals say 'a lot of drivers could do something similar' in a Mercedes too

Mercedes' George Russell in action during the race.
Mercedes' George Russell in action during the race.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANAMA (AFP) - Team chief Toto Wolff hailed George Russell as a new star on Monday (Dec 7) after his storming drive for Mercedes in Sunday's Sakhir Grand Prix but rival drivers said the British sensation had exposed Formula One's need for a more level playing field.

Mercedes boss Wolff said the 22-year-old Briton, released by struggling Williams to stand in for Covid-hit seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, had exceeded expectations with a polished personal performance throughout the weekend though he finished ninth following a bungled pit stop and a late slow puncture.

Racing Point's Sergio Perez eventually secured a maiden win in his 190th race.

"I would say that a new star has been born!" proclaimed Wolff.

But while Russell deserved acclaim from the Mercedes boss, others pointed out that he was not the only driver whose talent was hidden by machinery that was uncompetitive.

"It's a shame that a guy that is fighting for P15 every weekend, suddenly when you put him in a race-winning car, he's 20-thousandths off pole," said McLaren's Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz.

"If anything, for me, this demonstrates what F1 is missing - creating a much more incredible show if you could level the playing field and allow the driver to make more of a difference.

"At the moment, when you are one second off the pace, or two seconds off the pace, you cannot really see the last two-tenths from a driver that makes a difference."

His team-mate Lando Norris agreed, saying "a lot of drivers could do something similar" in a Mercedes, but was quick to add that Hamilton had additional qualities.

'Need a Mercedes'

"We can all drive cars extremely quickly and maybe it's just a car that suits George and probably suits a lot of other drivers as well," he said.

"If you want to win a championship, you need to be in a Mercedes. So, I think a lot of drivers could, at some races, bring the fight to Valtteri (Bottas) or bring a fight to Lewis (Hamilton).

"But there are a lot of traits which Lewis has, like his consistency to be on pole the majority of the weekends and have flawless races, without mistakes - those are his impressive traits."

He added that he expected a different kind of race at Abu Dhabi's season-ending event this week.

"I think maybe you'll see a slightly different story. This (Sakhir) is a track with four corners. If there's a track where it's a bit easier for a driver to jump into a new car and do something special, it's probably here."