Williams Team Principal Jost Capito has said that he sees similarities between George Russell and a certain Kimi Raikkonen when the latter debuted for Sauber-Petronas back in 2001. Capito was the COO of Sauber when Raikkonen was signed in 2001.
At the time, Raikkonen was virtually unknown, having participated in Formula Renault for a limited period of time, but the Flying Finn cast all doubts away as he went on to be F1’s hottest talents, something Capito believes Russell is emulating.
“There is a lot in George, I see a lot [of] what I’ve seen in Kimi,” Capito said while praising the Williams driver.
“I’m still impressed by George. Even though the expectations were high, especially after last year and I think he fully delivers according to the expectations and, with all the things that are going around him with his contract for next year and where he’s driving, I am very impressed how cool he takes it and how relaxed he is with that situation and how it doesn’t touch him.”
Capito talked more about Raikkonen’s journey in Sauber, highlighting how it was obvious that the Finn was talented and an exceptional driver, even for F1 standards.
“With Kimi, it was clear he would be exceptional. I had this feeling right from the beginning,” he commented. “When he came the first time to Hinwil [Sauber’s base], I think looking in his eyes I knew he is the guy you have to keep.”
While comparing Russell to Raikkonen in his youth, Capito has admitted that there is some difference to how he regards the two drivers, as Russell is currently more experienced, having spent three years in F1 as opposed to Raikkonen merely debuting.
“I’m still impressed by George. Even though the expectations were high, especially after last year and I think he fully delivers according to the expectations and, with all the things that are going around him with his contract for next year and where he’s driving, I am very impressed how cool he takes it and how relaxed he is with that situation and how it doesn’t touch him,” he admitted.
“Compared to Kimi, it’s George’s third season, compared to Kimi, when I was there it was his first season. So, for sure it’s different.”
Capito took the moment to explain just how involved the young Briton was in the team, elaborating how Russell takes time with the team to properly understand the data and motivate the team after disappointing results.
“He goes to the factory and the gym and he’s very close to the team and I think that is one of his strengths – because they all love him and they all work… everybody works very hard for him,” Capito admitted.
“Every Tuesday we have a town hall, where we inform the whole company, everybody dials in, and is informed about the last weekend, and George dialed in on Tuesday and talks to the team. He takes his time to be with the team.”