Lewis Hamilton admits ‘amazing’ George Russell could prove to be a ‘strong competitor’ as the seven-time champion’s British compatriot steps in to replace Valtteri Bottas as his new Mercedes team-mate
- George Russell will step up in 2022 as Lewis Hamilton’s new F1 team-mate
- The 24-year-old has previously spent the last three years at Williams
- Russell impressed at the team and Hamilton admits he faces tough competition
- The duo will be hoping new Mercedes can lead championship charge
Lewis Hamilton believes he faces strong competition this term from inside Mercedes as he looks ahead to his bid for an eighth world championship.
The Brit will once again drive for Mercedes for a tenth season as he looks to wrestle back the crown he lost in agonising circumstances on the last lap of December’s Abu Grand Prix to chief rival Max Verstappen.
But Hamilton will now have just his third new team-mate since joining Mercedes in 2013 as he is paired alongside fellow Brit George Russell following his three years at Williams having been part of Mercedes’ young driver programme.
Lewis Hamilton (left) will be paired alongside new team-mate George Russell this season
Russell, 24, replaces Valtteri Bottas who enjoyed an excellent relationship as with Hamilton as a clear No 2 after replacing Nico Rosberg in 2017 who retired after winning the world title amid a bitter feud with the Brit.
Hamilton now believes he will have to be on his toes to keep on top inside the Mercedes garage.
‘Of course, he’s had an amazing run getting to Formula One and he was already a part of our team so I’ve seen him around engineering, in the simulator and obviously at Williams’, Hamilton said.
‘So he fits in and fits the position like a glove and so far it’s great.
The duo stand with team boss Toto Wolff following the launch of Mercedes’ 2022 car
‘I honestly think I’ve learned a lot over the years of how to engage with your team-mate, how you work with a team to help them achieve the ultimate goal.
‘I’m excited to engage with him, to collaborate with him. Hopefully our driving styles aren’t too dissimilar.’
Despite only landing one contentious podium at last season’s controversial Belgium Grand Prix that ran under the safety car for just two laps before a result was declared Russell has impressed during his 60 races in the sport so far, following a handful of points with the struggling Williams outfit.
Hamilton expects Russell to seriously challenge him, and that he understands the pressure he is under with the 37-year-old having started his F1 career in 2007 up against then double world champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren.
George Russell has so far enjoyed three seasons in F1 at relative backmarkers Williams
‘I know the position he’s in, being up against a world champion,’ Hamilton said.
‘I know the pressures that come with it, the expectations and the internal feelings of what that’s like.
‘I want him to learn as much as he can and grow as much as he can and I have no doubts he’s going to be a strong competitor.’
Russell has already impressed once at Mercedes, standing in for Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix where only misfortune on the track and a botched pit-stop by the Mercedes team cost him the chance of an incredible victory.
Russell has previously raced for Mercedes where a botched pit-stop by the team cost him the chance of a famous victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix having replaced Lewis Hamilton
And Russell believes there is enough amount of respect and a positive relationship with Hamilton to make the duo a Mercedes combo that can work in harmony this term.
‘I think we’re going to have a really good relationship between the two of us and we can really work together to push the team forwards,’ he said.
‘Lewis and I have a huge amount of respect for each other. I think it has also helped that I was in the engineering meetings five years ago, at the back, listening and learning and that work and relationship was already there.
‘We’ve always had a good relationship. In terms of how he will help develop me, I think just being open with one another. I think we need to prioritise the pace of the car before prioritising each other, because things aren’t going to be as clear as they were in the past three years when the regulations were stable.’