George Russell is set to challenge Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes’ number one driver this season, but their story together has been going on for a decade.
The 23-year-old was confirmed as Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate in September 2021, with the Briton replacing Valtteri Bottas in the hot seat.
But Russell will relish the opportunity after first seeking the seven-time champion for an autograph as a budding kart in 2009.
The F1 No.63 was just 11 at the time and was knocked out by future team-mate Hamilton, then 24 and with just one title, at a Formula Kart Stars event.
“It was like meeting a superhero,” he said. “When you’re a kid at that age and you meet an F1 driver, you don’t think those people are human.
“It was a really special moment for me.
“I even remember it now, which is kind of weird to remember a memory from when you were 11.”
Russell added: “It’s quite surreal to be lining up alongside him next year.
“When I met him, that’s when I thought, I want to be like him, I want to be an F1 driver and I want to win world championships.”
George Russell’s record in F1
Registrations: 60 (60 starts)
Career points: 19
Pole position: 0
Fastest laps: 1
First participation: 2019 Australian Grand Prix
Ranking 2021: 15th (16 points)
Russell is now considered one of Formula 1’s hottest prospects since getting the chance to impress at Williams in 2019.
He had long since caught the racing bug before meeting Hamilton for the first time, having started karting aged seven alongside his brother.
But Russell also has a keen interest in other sports, revealing in 2019 that he is a Wolves fan, with his father a subscriber to Molineux.
The Norfolk-born star managed to attend the club’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United where Ruben Neves canceled out Anthony Martial’s first-half goal.
“My dad is a season ticket holder with Wolves and comes to games week in and week out,” Russell told Wolves’ official website ahead of the game.
“I’ve only been to Wolves about eight or nine games over the years, but every time I come to games I’m converted into an even bigger fan.”
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Russell added: “I’ve always followed Wolves through my dad and always loved football, but I wouldn’t call myself a massive supporter.
“Although I may have lost touch a bit, it was nice to come back to the stadium during my summer break and watch a game.
“Being at Molineux and seeing the atmosphere is always a real buzz. Right from this game, I’m going to get back into it again.
It’s part of that dedication to his own craft that has secured Russell pole position to succeed with Mercedes next season.
But Russell is also a student of the game having bonded with the late great Niki Lauda after meeting him in Baku after a race in 2017.
When Lauda died two years later, the Formula 2 champion revealed the pair once went to a Black Eyed Peas and Nicole Scherzinger concert together.
In recent years Russell has gone from strength to strength, earning rave reviews since moving to F1.
He continually outpaced what was the slowest car on the grid for much of his time at Williams, twice qualifying second on the grid.
Russell set one of the fastest laps of the season when he qualified first for the Belgian Grand Prix, then took a default second place when the race was called off due to heavy rain.
He also stunned the grid in 2020 when he replaced a Covid-stricken Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix, and made light work of team-mate Valtteri Bottas before having his race ruined by tire drama.
Few would bet against him to claim his first F1 victory the next time he takes his place in a Silver Arrow…