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Mar 23, 2022

Russell could finish ahead of Hamilton this season, says Montoya

Former F1 and NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya joined us for a chat to discuss the young drivers who can make a mark this season of Formula 1.

Is George Russell gonna finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton for the entire season?

"If Mercedes is not as strong as to win a championship, absolutely (Russell finishing ahead of Hamilton in the season)."

"If Mercedes has a shot at the championship, no. I think Lewis is still going to beat him just because he has a lot more experience."

"If the car is average, running fifth every week, I think George will still push like he wants to win where Lewis might be disappointed, and won't care enough."

"If they genuinely struggle this year, will he go - 'let's go another year, running in the midfield?"

"I don't see him walking him away from Mercedes to somewhere else because they struggle. I think he would probably just say, 'thank you very much, I'm done'."

"Apart from the fact that he's very, very good, he's always been in the right place at the right time." 

"He went into McLaren when they started winning. He left them and everyone is like, 'why would you leave McLaren if they're winning'?"

"Went to Mercedes and won everything."

Without George Russell, will Williams descend back into what they were before or can they take another step?

“No, I think their drivers, with (Alex) Albon, and if you look at (Nicholas) Latifi, in F1, the difference between being really really good and being an average driver is very small.” 

“You look at Latifi's end of last year qualifying pace, a lot of times he was right there. And I think Albon never got a fair shot in my opinion at Red Bull. I don't like the way it was handled, and from what you hear from the outside, I wasn't there, I wasn't a part of it, but what you hear from the outside, I think he's a lot better than what people are giving him credit for.” 

“When you get a second chance like this, it's do or die, so I think he'll be doing a really good job. And I think it's good. 

“The question is, is George (Russell) that good? Or was Williams not that bad?”

“Latifi is young. It's normal. He's got a long way to go before he becomes really good. He's a guy that with the year will keep getting better. As long as he can stay there for a couple of years, I think he's going to get better, and better and better.” 

“The team has no pressure. If you look at it from an investment point of view, they guys that have bought it, they have nothing to lose. They are putting all the tools in place to make sure the team is going in the right direction. Same time with McLaren. When McLaren was struggling, they did everything, and they put the right people in the right places, and it just takes a bit of time.”

“This is the problem, everybody is working, trying to make the car faster everyday at the shop, every weekend at the race track, so if you are a second off, how do you close that gap? Everybody keeps working so you really, when you are behind, you really need to figure out how to make bigger steps. The advantage when you are behind, is you can see what everybody else is doing, you can look at the car trends, how the front wings are, how  everything works. And you can take enough pictures now, in good enough resolution, that you can go and put a lot of their parts in a wind tunnel and understand why everything is working the way it is.”

“If you can figure it out, the next step you are going to make is way bigger than the guys trying to reinvent the wheel every time. When you are the best, you will find things, but the things you are going to find are smaller. The problem normally was that the teams in the back didn't have enough money compared with the teams in front, now with the budget cap, that's going to close a lot.”

Any particular younger drivers who we should look out for and can surprise us this season?

"Young, been there for a while, George (Russell) is a number one thing."

"I think George is going to make Lewis' life very miserable but I think it's great. It is the next generation of top guys that is great to see."

“From the young guys as well, you got to look at the two guys, (Pierre) Gasly has been around in F1 for a while and it's interesting because I don't know how different the environment in Red Bull and AlphaTauri is really, but he really feels at home at AlphaTauri and he excels at it."

"He matured a lot through last year. He got to learn a lot." 

"The crazy thing with F1 is when you're really good, they give you a lot of breaks. And I think Red Bull changed their mentality lately and have been a little nicer to their guys because they used to give them a chance, and two races later someone and two races, somebody else."

"They were not really giving people enough of a chance to perform and I think that's changed a bit."

"They still need to perform."

Are there any drivers who don’t, quality wise or perhaps mentally, don’t belong in F1?

"That's so difficult to answer because mostly people in F1 are there because they have enough talent, and even with enough talent they need enough backing to make it."

"Even the guys with extra backing to make it, they've done a good job in the previous Formulas. They're not bad drivers."

"That's the problem. You look at people paying for seats and stuff and you go - 'they're terrible'. The guy terrible is finishing top 3 in F2. There's a lot more terrible behind him."

"The problem, in the environment of the sport, is when you have someone paying for a seat like that they feel - 'oh my god, he's just there because of the money'."

"Yeah part of it is the money but they still did a decent job. Mazepin did a decent job. Was he the fastest guy out there who would light the world on fire? Probably not. But he wasn't terrible. He made enough points to get a super license, so, whether you like it or not, he's there."

"That's a very hard argument because the paying drivers nowadays are pretty good. Are they super stellar and going to be world champions? Probably not. But can they make a career out of it? Probably yes."

"And the thing nowadays, the way the economy is, how unpredictable it is and everything, when somebody comes with the money, the team decision is a much easier one."

"Whether you like it or not, 80 percent of the performance in F1 is the car. You can put Lewis and Max as teammates, on a Haas, or Williams, last year and they are going to run at the back of the pack. They wouldn't do a better job or anything that much better than George Russell was doing with it."

"When you're a smaller team, you want to have the best driver possible in the team but a lot of them will look at it as a business. If you're Haas and your companies are the ones putting money in for the sport and then somebody comes and goes - 'here is a chunk of change that you don't have to get out of your bank' - it's hard to say 'ah no no no, I'll keep spending it'."

"If they're winning races they want to make sure to have the best possible driver but if they're missing on that front, then it's extra money for development. Once the car gets really good, they can go and hire somebody else."

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