Life in the Fast Lane: George Russell Has Momentum Ahead of the Australian Grand Prix

The F1 driver and IWC Ambassador is adamant of a strong season ahead with Mercedes.

By Josh Bozin 21/03/2024

“Right now, I want to be as fast as possible. It’s that simple.”

These are the words spoken boldly by George Russell, the 26-year-old Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 driver—and IWC Schaffhausen ambassador—who, despite a 2023 season riddled with shortcomings and heartbreak, remains as confident as ever in his abilities to compete in the Formula 1.

“There is a fast car in there, it’s just about dialling in the performance,” he tells Robb Report at an exclusive event celebrating IWC’s newest Chadstone boutique. “Personally, I feel like I’m performing at a great level.”

As we approach this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix—the third race of the 2024 F1 season and one of its toughest—Russell, as always, is poised and focused on the task ahead. With a racing style that’s “fast, adaptive, and precise,” and a teammate in seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS know what it will take to reclaim the dominant run of wins it was once accustomed to.

Below, Russell discusses the challenges associated with Formula 1, the growing awareness of mental health in sport, and his partnership with IWC which has afforded a newfound appreciation for the world of watches.

@mercedesamgf1
@mercedesamgf1

 

Robb Report: George, it’s great to see you back in Australia! We spoke last year and you mentioned a newfound appreciation for the ocean. During the off-season, did you manage to get away to any exotic or tropical location?

George Russell: Well I had every intention of doing so [laughs] but I actually got really ill at the end of last year and had to cancel all my plans and just stay at home. After Abu Dhabi, I spoke with the team doctors and they were like, right, you need six weeks off.

RR: So 2023 really was a rollercoaster ride for you, wasn’t it?

GR: It was, yeah. I’m glad it’s out of the way. But no, I’m definitely going to do a bit more exploring this season. I was hoping to go to Japan after this week and do a bit of exploring between Kyoto and Osaka but after Melbourne, I have to head back home to the UK and jump straight on the simulator.

RR: Have you had the chance to reflect on the season that was, and what are some of the things that you do to cope with the mental and physical pressures that come with a new season (and racing in general)?

GR: I think on the mental side, it’s important to talk about this and be open and honest with those around you. I’m so fortunate that my trainer, who travels with me every single race and has been with me for seven years, understands the racing world. So when we have these conversations, whether it’s to and from the track in the morning or during a session at the gym, that’s a really good way for me to release whatever maybe in my mind or for him to soundboard or bounce ideas off. Or really, just to hear me out.

On top of that, I do talk with a professional psychologist, which I think is really important. I think the views around mental health and talking with professionals is that you only do it when you need it and when you’re down in the dumps. Whereas my view is you want to be talking with those around you, whoever it may be, so that you don’t find yourself down in the dumps.

On the physical side, this sport is very demanding of its drivers. If we take this week, for example, I flew in last Sunday, jet lag hit me hard on Monday. Tuesday, I hit the gym but couldn’t go all out because you’re fatigued and you’ll do more damage. You need to let the body rest and recover. Wednesday, I’m doing events all day. I’m with the team Thursday at the track. And then, you know, come Friday it’s just racing, racing, racing. Sunday night, I fly back and come Tuesday, I’m back on a simulator. So it’s important on hitting that winter hard [off-season] because once the season starts, you just don’t get the time to increase your muscle mass or your fitness.

RR: A few weeks ago in Saudi, the team didn’t get the results you were hoping for. As we head into this weekend, do you know where the car is at in terms of performance, and what are the things you can do as a driver, however small, that will help optimise the team’s performance?

GR: We don’t yet know where the car is at… If you take Red Bull out of the situation, the grid is so close in Formula 1 at the moment. So that’s why you don’t know where we are in terms of performance because one tenth of a second is all that separates us from the likes of Aston Martin, McLaren and Ferrari. I mean, I qualified P3 in Bahrain. If I was two tenths slower, I’d have been P8. And that can change your whole weekend.

Sure, the car isn’t performing as we expected at the moment, but we’ve got some indications why that may be. We’re making some small changes ahead of the weekend in Melbourne, but it’s still early days, we’re two races in, it’s a 24 race season, and we need to utilise every single race right now to maximise the learning of the car before trying to optimise the last millisecond of performance.

It sounds a bit crazy that you’re still trying to learn during races, but we only get three days of testing. Fortunately, we have a week off between all of these races, so it gives us time to digest the data and be very thorough with that and try and pick off what we need to do.

@mercedesamgf1
@mercedesamgf1

RR: Are you feeling confident though ahead of the weekend?

GR: A driver’s role ultimately is to drive as fast as possible. Personally, I feel like I’m performing at a great level, especially over the last couple of races of the ’23 season. Right now, I feel like I’m doing well and you know, obviously you’ve got Lewis [Hamilton] as my teammate. You can only really use your teammate as your benchmark and I’ve got probably the best benchmark of all of the drivers. So we’re pushing one another. we’re trying to motivate the team and direct the team in the right way; that’s all we can do.

RR: Last month, the sixth season of Drive to Survive returned to Netflix. Obviously, the series has helped introduce a new generation of F1 fans but I’m sure it has its disadvantages, too. What are your thoughts on the series and with the added spotlight that it brings, how do you best deal with all the outside noise?

GR: I haven’t seen it yet [laughs], but I think it’s been amazing for Formula 1. It’s shown the sport through a different lens, which has been really important. And it’s brought so many new fans into the sport, as well as a younger audience. I think we’re seeing more females than ever watching Formula 1, which is also incredible, as well as a really a diverse group of people now supporting. Of course, as these things are, it’s of course, dramatised – that’s what TV is for. I think that’s why a lot of drivers have mixed views on the show. And for them [Netflix], it’s always important to find a narrative and a story.

To be honest, last year I made the decision to focus more on the performance rather than too much time with the Netflix crew because you do have to give a lot of time to developing the story and the narrative. And for every interview I’m doing, that’s two hours spent that I’m not talking to my engineers, or I’m not training, or I’m not talking to my psychologist, or I’m not on the simulator. I had the view of, will this make me faster? And I concluded, no, it won’t make me faster. Right now, I want to be as fast as possible.

RR: Let’s talk watches! You’ve spent some time with IWC now as one of its global ambassadors, and I’m guessing you’ve been wearing the new IWC Pilot’s Performance Chronograph that launched in Las Vegas last year. Has it been getting some wrist time of late?

GR: It’s the second edition of the Mercedes team watch and I’ve got to say, I really like its style. I think this model is a slightly elevated variant from the first one – it looks fast and aggressive, especially in its contrasting black and neon green colours, and add in the Petronas green that we see on the race car; it totally changes the watch.

You know, I didn’t know much about watches before joining IWC, and I wouldn’t say it was really a passion of mine the past, but since visiting the IWC manufacture in Schaffhausen, seeing the precision that goes into every single watch and how fine the details are is incredible. To be honest, the details are far finer than what we actually have in Formula 1.

IWC
IWC

RR: Do you prefer it on rubber or with a different strap option?

GR: On rubber, it brings a slightly sportier look to the piece. But I like bracelets and other materials, because it looks a touch classier – you can still wear it casually, but it gives you that option to dress it up. It’s super versatile.

RR: So would you say you’re more of a Pilots/Performance watch kind of guy, or do you prefer the timelessness of a good dress watch, like your IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar?

GR: I’m very fortunate because now I’ve got a number of options [laughs]. I would say I probably go towards the Portugiesers. Smart casual is my dress code of choice, and I think the Portugieser goes really, really well. I’m lucky to own the Portugieser Annual Calendar with a white dial and black leather strap. But I’ve also got the Boutique Edition, which I really love with its touch of navy.

To learn more about the new IWC Pilot’s Performance Chronograph, visit iwc.com

 

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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