Lewis Hamilton is sure that George Russell will put pressure on him next season but also expects a younger driver to can bring renewed energy to the Mercedes team.
Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas in 2022, the Finn leaving after five years as Hamilton’s teammate. With the Williams driver coming in, Hamilton believes Russell will provide a boost to Mercedes as a team, given where he is in his career.
“Naturally, he’s part of that young group,” Hamilton said. “The young talent that’s coming through is so great for the sport and the future of the sport. I think new fresh blood in our team is going to be great because I’m the oldie there, and I think that definitely will energize the whole team knowing that they have a new youngster coming through who is super hungry, driven and will be pushing the team forwards.
“I mean, I’ve watched George come through Formula 3, GP2 and of course I have watched a lot of the racing he has done and moves he has done, and there’s no doubt he is incredibly talented. I’ve not looked into detail where he is weak — that’s not something I put much energy towards. I just know he will continue to get stronger, even in these next nine races, and next year he will be bringing the heat for sure.”
Hamilton says how successful the pairing between himself and Russell is will largely depend on the way their partnership is handled by the likes of Toto Wolff.
“History has shown that it can and history has shown that it can’t. It’s different in each team and is ultimately how it’s managed,” he said. “It’s quite a strange sport in that it is a team sport but also an individual sport, so you have the two championships and individually you want to finish ahead, but at the same time you’ve got to do the job to get the team ahead.
“It’s a difficult one to navigate through, but I like to think we have experienced it and lived through it, and therefore we should be pretty well set to move forwards.”
While Hamilton was involved in the decision-making progress by giving Wolff his opinion on both Bottas and Russell when asked — saying he was positive about both — the seven-time world champion insists he doesn’t know if he could have vetoed a driver coming in if he’d wanted.
“That’s not really my style. I remember joining in 2013 and saying to Ross (Brawn) that I just want equal opportunity. I think that’s the most rewarding position to be in because if you do the work and you do succeed you know you’ve done the job against whoever it is at their best. Winning when someone’s wings are clipped, that’s not something that interests me, so that was never a thought.
“I don’t know what to expect from George — I definitely don’t put expectations on him. I’ve already mentioned that he’s incredibly talented and is showing great speed, so I can’t definitely say he’s going to be faster than Valtteri or slower than him, I’ve not raced against him. I’m sure he’s going to be very fast and as I said in the thing that I posted (after the announcement), I’m looking forward to seeing his growth and the speed that he brings, and what he contributes to the team.”