George Russell is reported to have tried out his new Mercedes steering wheel – which has been adapted from Lewis Hamilton’s version.
Mercedes will have an all-British driver line-up next season with Russell coming in to replace Valtteri Bottas alongside his seven-time former World Champion team-mate, who is 13 years his senior.
A junior driver with the team since early 2017, the 23-year-old naturally already has an understanding of the Mercedes procedures and, of course, stood in when Hamilton was suffering from COVID-19 at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.
And ahead of his big move from Williams, Russell was able to re-familiarise himself with those processes when he drove for Mercedes in a ‘mule’ car during the Pirelli test of next year’s 18-inch tyres at Yas Marina just after this season’s final grand prix.
That was the opportunity for him to not only re-acquaint himself with the Mercedes engineers, but also gain experience of the steering wheel that has been modified for him.
The Italian edition of Motorsport.com report that in 2019, his first season with Williams, Russell had used a standard steering wheel rather than one that had been customised to suit his own hand and finger movements.
That first one had “the two clutch levers with a single thimble, while in 2020 the system was evolved with two metal fingers”.
But after he had driven Hamilton’s car in Bahrain, where he led for much of the race and probably would have won had it not been for a pit-stop blunder by the team and a subsequent slow puncture, Russell “asked the Grove team to adapt the steering wheel”.
According to the report, Russell “discovered how much more modular the clutch release was at the start with a single rocker arm” and so he requested that on the FW43B.
Thus, upon his return to Mercedes for the Abu Dhabi test, Bottas’ successor “already found a steering wheel that was adapted to his specific needs – Russell, in fact, drove with a single lever on the right that had a much shorter rocker arm than Lewis, having longer fingers that needed a different grip”.
The report says he “wanted to enter immediately into the mentality of the top team that will be behind him next year, seeking an immediate harmony with the technicians that will be dedicated to him.
“And the first mutual impressions have been very positive…”
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