Bullish George Russell and Lewis Hamilton both put targets on Max Verstappen's back

George Russell celebrated his 25th birthday by declaring himself ready to fight champion Max Verstappen for the world title.

Despite the team’s troubles in 2022, Russell enjoyed a promising first season in Formula 1 with Mercedes. He won his first Grand Prix in Brazil – the Silver Arrows’ only victory last term – and finished fourth in the drivers’ standings, 35 points ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

And he reckons that has given the platform to establish himself as a major force at the front of the F1 grid. Russell said: “I feel like last year was a good taste but I feel absolutely ready within myself and the team around me to fight… and we want to put that fight against Max.

“I’m sure Ferrari are also going to come out of the blocks fast and we want to put that fight against those guys. For me, there is room to improve and that fills me with confidence.

“I feel like I performed at a very high level [in 2022] even though I feel I’ve got a lot more in my pocket. I feel like I have got a lot more to come. Mentally, I feel in the strongest place I have ever been. I feel good within myself and feel I took the necessary time off.”

While he came out on top in his inter-team duel in 2022, Russell believes he is still learning from Hamilton as they both look to put Mercedes’ recent troubles behind them.

Defending champion Max Verstappen is the man to beat
Defending champion Max Verstappen is the man to beat
(Image: Getty Images)

He said: “I want to be the best, I want to win world championships and who better to have as your teammate than Lewis Hamilton?” Giving his thoughts on the livery of their new car and how he feels for the season ahead, Hamilton was also in a bullish mood.

He said: “To see the evolution of the car and the changes that have been made is fascinating. We’ve redesigned, optimised, and innovated so many parts of the car and that is impressive. And I love the new livery! It says, ‘we mean business’.

“We are all excited to get in and see what we can do. I’m excited to go racing again. I feel calm, energised, and have my focus sharpened. I’m ready to do what’s necessary to win.”