George Russell needs to get himself a hobby

Revisit our 2020 interview with the Williams Formula One driver, talking Mercedes, Monaco and his quest to find the perfect pastime

George Russell needs to get himself a hobby. Not my words; the driver’s own. In fact, the 23-year-old Formula One driver tells me he’s been looking for a hobby for some time now — but also admits that he’s found the process hard. Why? Because, as badly as Russell may want to learn the guitar, become a competitive juggler or turn his hand to long-form poetry, he simply can’t find the time.

“Formula One is so intense!” Russell laughs. “But, because it’s so intense, I need something to take my mind off it. And I don’t have any hobbies yet. It’s something I’ve been trying to change for a long time now. Actually, you know what I have been getting into? Golf. Even though I’m pretty terrible at it, I still find it quite relaxing. It clears my head.”

Golf. Golf? It’s not as bad stamp-collecting, but it’s not far off — and I think we can do better. Russell is a man competing on the world stage of his sport, after all. He has the might and money of several global brands and businesses behind him. And he’s only 23! Surely golf can wait — he can take to the green with Lando Norris and Alex Albon when his twilight years roll around. But, for now, let’s think of something a little more dynamic. What does Russell believe his strengths are, and we can go from there?

“I’d like to think I’m very dedicated,” he considers. “Passionate. In racing, I’ve always given absolutely everything I’ve got to reach my goals and become the best driver possible. I know so many other teenage drivers who didn’t make it to Formula One — but their teenage years were spent out partying, drinking and having weekends off. I did none of that. I was too focused. You could argue that I missed out slightly there, but I wouldn’t change it. Not one bit.”

It’s true — the man is nothing if not dedicated. And Russell’s formative years were similar to many of the other young drivers on the grid today. After catching the karting bug — his brother raced first, and George still uses Benjy Russell’s race number, 63, to this day — George left formal education to be home-schooled and focus on his motorsport career. It’s a path everyone from Max Verstappen to Charles LeClerc also followed.

“Motorsport was our life,” Russell nods. “And we knew, if we wanted to make it to Formula One, that we had to give everything we had. Doing the homeschooling just made it a lot more flexible for us — and meant we were able to focus on the races whenever they came up.”

george russell formula one racing driver williams mercedes
george russell formula one racing driver williams mercedes

But enough about the racing — we need to find Russell a hobby. Because he really, really wants one. “I’ve just been struggling to find the time,” he admits. “Especially because this season’s so intense. It hasn’t really given me the opportunity to go out and try anything.”

"I've been getting into golf — even though I’m pretty terrible at it..."

It’s understandable. But, if Russell doesn’t have time to try anything new at the moment, perhaps we can find a suitable hobby in one of his past interests. What about an alternative career path that didn’t work out? What does the young Brit think he’d be doing if his life hadn’t ended up on four wheels?

“I think I’d be a footballer,” he smiles. “I played for my local club when I was a child, my local town. I really enjoyed it. I only started karting when I was seven, and I still remember having to decide which route to go down. It was a really tough decision, especially as a child. There were definitely some tears. But I’ve always been competitive; I’d have always needed a sport to spur me on.”

So perhaps we’re looking for another high-octane, fast-paced pastime to occupy Russell’s downtime. After all, when your day job is so exhilarating, there’s probably only so much flower arranging or pottery making you can do before you get bored. Russell even admits that his enthusiasm for Formula One once began to wane.

“It started to fade away a bit when I was around 16,” he admits. “I thought: ‘This is going to be a lot harder than I first thought’. I mean, the fact that there are only 20 Formula One drivers in the entire world? In football, you’ve got 20 players per team, 20 teams per league and you can play professionally all over the world. There are so many opportunities in other sports. In motorsport, there are not.

“And,” he adds, “for every great driver that comes into Formula One, another great driver has to leave. It’s ruthless.”

And yet, Russell is racing in the big leagues. The time, effort and hours put in behind the wheel have paid off. He may not yet find himself on the podium — but getting onto the grid at all is still a world-beating achievement. So how about something to do with cars? If Russell is so passionate about motors, why not fuel a four-wheeled hobby with his interest?

george russell formula one racing driver williams mercedes

“I would say that I’m a car enthusiast,” he nods. “And I really enjoy the cars I drive. As a Mercedes driver, I really enjoy driving them — currently I’ve got a GTC. The best car I’ve ever driven is probably a Mercedes, too — the GTR I had last year. I’ve had a lot of them. They’re mega. Actually, I forced my father to buy one — I’ve made my whole family a Mercedes family! And I’d love to have a Porsche or a McLaren one day.”

They’re attainable dreams for Russell. Perhaps he should start cultivating a supercar collection? It’s an expensive hobby, but the young racer reportedly took home a seven-figure salary last year. And he certainly moves in the right circles to show such a garage off. Monaco especially — the jet-setting, high-flying home of many Formula One stars (not George, he spent lockdown living with his parents) — is a hive of high-end motors.

"For every great driver to come into Formula One, another one must leave. It’s ruthless...”

“It’s just the most outlandish, memorably city,” says Russell of Monte Carlo. “You know? It’s just so out of this world — almost like something from a movie. Just millions and millions of pounds worth of boats and yachts in the harbour. Celebrities and A-listers everywhere. It’s another world.”

But Formula One drivers are no strangers to the finer things. As part of the day job, they spend 10 months of the year flying first class around the globe, driving fast cars and eating good food. Not to mention the clothes. Russell, like field-leader Lewis Hamilton, appears to have an eye for fashion beyond his race suit.

“I do enjoy my clothes,” Russell nods. “I enjoy wearing nice things — always smart casual. I think how you dress says a lot about you as a person, and I think it’s really important to always dress for first impressions. Because, before you even speak to someone for the first time, they’ll judge you. It’s important to always look your best.”

george russell formula one racing driver williams mercedes

George Russell at Sochi 2020

And judgement abounds in the paddock. Russell is the first to admit that he isn’t battling it out for the podium every race, but the scrutiny afforded to Formula One drivers seems to be harsher than in almost any other sport. As the racer says, there are fewer competitors overall — and this means fewer people to bear the brunt of criticism. This pressure, Russell reveals, leads to frequent falling-outs.

“We’re all incredibly competitive,” he notes. “Because it’s our life. And, if there’s an issue on the track, like a crash, it can ruin friendships. I’ve had rivalries in the past, throughout junior Formulas and karting — because you’re always competing on the track and having collisions.

“That said, I haven’t had many collisions or disagreements yet in Formula One,” Russell adds. “And, the times that I have — for instance with Grosjean — we’re both men, so we just talked it out, shook hands afterwards and moved on. But that’s not to say that I won’t have falling-outs or rivalries in the future…”

It’s an intense game Russell and his fellow racers are playing. And that’s only in the pits — before they buckle into cars that can easily top 200mph. So maybe he’s right — maybe his perfect hobby will give him a chance to take a beat, catch his breath and slow down. Maybe it should be the calmest, most restful pastime he can find. Golf it is.

Want to hear more from Formula One’s youngest generation? Nicholas Latifi is shifting gears…

Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.

Become a Gentleman’s Journal Member?

Like the Gentleman’s Journal? Why not join the Clubhouse, a special kind of private club where members receive offers and experiences from hand-picked, premium brands. You will also receive invites to exclusive events, the quarterly print magazine delivered directly to your door and your own membership card.

Click here to find out more