The GP3 champion submits to our withering questions
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
George Russell: Being surrounded by people who make you happy: friends and family. You can have all the luxuries in the world, but if you don’t have the right people around you making you happy then you won’t be happy: boats, jet skis, whatever, it’s really about the company. So great company, on the beach somewhere nice and warm, and just chilling out.
What is your greatest fear?
George: Snakes and crocodiles! I don’t know why: I’m not scared of heights or spiders or any of the usual things, but snakes and crocodiles just get to me.
Which person do you most admire?
George: Someone like David Beckham: he’s an English sporting hero, and he’s also done a lot of great things for the world, he’s an ambassador for charities and an all-round nice guy who everyone looks up to.
What is your current state of mind?
George: Relaxed and excited: I’ve already collected the title, so there’s no stress in that, and excited to get racing again, and to get behind the wheel of the Force India tomorrow [interview was on Thursday, pre-Abu Dhabi race weekend].
When do you lie?
George: When something’s not official but confirmed, let’s say: for example I will be driving for a certain team next week [ART] for all three days, but it’s not confirmed yet, so I have no other words to say than ‘we’re not sure yet.’
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
George: I find it quite difficult to look natural in photos! [laughs] Often I’m blinking or closing my eyes, so half of the photos I look a bit stupid! I don’t really know what to do in photo shoots: I try to smile, but it’s difficult to fake smile, so what I hate most is not being able to do a natural photo.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
George: Probably to be funny.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
George: For a partner you don’t want one quality, you want more of a range: I don’t need anything special. I get along really well with my girlfriend, and she doesn’t just have one special quality: she can cook, she can clean, she makes me laugh, we have a good time. So I don’t know what one single quality I like, but more someone who I like across the board.
When and where were you happiest?
George: Probably when I won the McLaren BRDC Autosport Award, just because it’s a huge thing in the UK, there’s a huge build up and you’re waiting 2.5 weeks from when the test happens to the award night: the night starts at 7.00 and the award isn’t announced until about 11.00, so you’re just constantly stressing! When my name was called out it was just a huge relief, and I knew it could potentially change my career forever, and it really did. I was the youngest ever to be nominated, let alone win it, so probably then.
Which talent would you most like to have?
George: I’d like to be able to do accents: I really struggle with impersonating accents, and it makes me laugh a lot when people can do that!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
George: To be slightly shorter, because as a driver weight is extremely important, and being a tall driver it’s quite hard to keep that weight down: I’m 186cm tall, so if I was 8-10cm shorter I could be stronger, look a bit more natural, whereas now I’m extremely skinny with not a single piece of meat on my body. If I was a bit shorter I could eat nicer food: I need to be Nirei, basically! [laughs]
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
George: To be picked up by Mercedes as a young driver: it’s quite clear with Mercedes that they are not there just to fill the numbers up with their young driver programme, not that I’m saying any other F1 teams are! But some of them have got up to 7 young drivers, and for Mercedes I’m the only junior driver outside F1, which really makes me believe they think I have the talent, I have a future, and they’re willing to invest in me and hopefully one day to put me behind the wheel of their car.
Where would you most like to live?
George: Somewhere sunny is a must: I’m very sensitive to the weather, as stupid as that sounds, and when you open the windows and see it’s grey and raining outside, as it is most of the time in the UK, you’re in a normal mood, nothing special. Whereas when you’re in Abu Dhabi you can walk around in shorts and a t shirt, sunglasses on, the weather’s lovely, and it just puts you in a better mood really. I love Italy, Italian food especially, and it’s really beautiful, especially some of the lakes in northern Italy, so probably north Italy or south France, either one of those.
What is your most treasured possession?
George: Probably my telephone! I don’t think anyone in the world can get anywhere without a telephone, certainly for me!
What is your favourite occupation?
George: That’s easy: racing driver! Not many people can have a job they love, and this isn’t quite my job yet, I’m working towards making it, but that would certainly be my favourite occupation.
What virtue do you most value in your friends?
George: Loyalty and trust: if you’re in difficult times just to rely on your friends, to tell them something and know it will go no further than them.
Who is your hero of fiction?
George: I don’t read that many books, and I’m not into fictional movies! I’m going to have to pass.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
George: That’s difficult! If it’s admire then probably someone like Nelson Mandela, someone who’s trying to do good in the world and make a change, to right what’s wrong.
What is it that you most dislike?
George: Snakes and crocodiles again!
What is your greatest regret?
George: Probably when I was karting: it was a very emotional time for everyone, we all got so involved in the sport, and there was a lot of arguments going on between the paddocks, not fights but fall outs between engine builders, manufacturers and teams, and for me I took everything to heart, voiced my opinion a lot and fell out with a lot of people in the paddock at the time. And these people have all progressed with their careers in the sport: as an example Oliver Oakes was the team manager of Callum Ilott in karting in 2012, and we were rivals and had a few incidents on track and had a big fall out afterwards, myself and Oli had a big argument after the race, and 4 years down the track I was racing in Formula 3 for Hitech, and who was the team manager? Mr Oliver Oakes. I’d have never thought 4 years ago that the guy who was the team manager of a kart team would be my team manager in Formula 3, and he could have hurt my career: he’s not like that, but he could have. So you’ve just got to get along with everyone, don’t argue, if there is a problem just keep it inside you, don’t voice it, and move on. Sometimes I take too many things to heart, let’s say. If I feel extremely strongly I’ll say something, but otherwise I’ll keep it to myself: when I was younger I didn’t do that, but I’ve learnt because that could have hurt my career.
What is your motto?
George: If you’re not first, you’re last! When I was younger there was a one off kart race, and me and my team manager decided we’d have a Talladega Nights sticker pack on my kart, and in there they say if you’re not first you’re last: I don’t really have a motto, but that will do! Or, if in doubt, go flat out!