Lewis Hamilton believes George Russell has the “potential to be a future champion” in Formula 1 as he heaped praise on the Williams driver’s progression and impressive 2020 season.

Hamilton sent Russell a message of support after his compatriot thew away the chance of scoring his first point in F1 by crashing under the Safety Car in the closing stages of the recent Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, the 22-year-old has enjoyed a strong 2020 campaign following on from an equally-impressive rookie season in 2019 driving a Williams car that has often been the slowest on the grid.

Russell has never been outqualified by a teammate in F1 and has reached Q2, the second stage of qualifying, on eight occasions so far this year.

"Looking at those in the early phases of their Formula 1 career, I've been there,” Hamilton said when explaining his message of support to Russell at the Turkish Grand Prix. "Many of us have been there and I know what it's like to have experiences like that.

"I just wanted to show that it's ok, don't beat yourself down too much. He's going to do it his own way anyway because that's how we are wired as racing drivers but I just wanted to show some support.”

Hamilton clinched a record-equalling seventh world title in treacherous conditions on F1’s return to Istanbul Park, while the Mercedes-backed Russell finished 16th, just two places behind Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas.

"What he's been able to do similar to if you look at Alonso [at Minardi in 2001] and drivers coming into one of the teams that are further back,” Hamilton added.

“Having an opportunity to grow and improve, and lead a team and make mistakes, all those different things.

"This year he's just been great how he's handles everything and what he's done with that car to put it into Q2 quite often and really delivering great results. Really impressed with his race craft and how he's growing.

"He really is the future. There are several drivers that are the future of this sport but he's one of them and I'm really excited to see his progression.

"I have no doubt that he has the potential to be a future champion."

 

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