Will George Russell start where Valtteri Bottas left off at Mercedes? The 24-year-old starts the 2022 season alongside his childhood superhero Lewis Hamilton – one of the best drivers Formula 1 has seen. The two will partner for Mercedes for the first time on March 20 in Bahrain.
About eight years ago, a teenager emailed Mercedes boss Toto Wolff keen to showcase his driving talent. He now has a chance to show arguably the best team on the grif exactly what he can do on the track.
However, Russell believes he rather be a teammate to seven-time world champion Hamilton than a rival. His successor, Bottas, played the same role for four seasons. The Fin never won the world title and only rarely pushed Hamilton.
The driver from King’s Lynn said that he can only learn from his British teammate.
“We are at different stages of our careers. Lewis has nothing to prove, he is statistically the greatest driver of all time, I think he wants me to succeed and he truly wants to help me. It’s incredibly exciting that I find myself in a win-win scenario. You’re going up against the greatest of all time who has beaten everybody. I can only learn from him,” Russell said ahead of the season opener.
Coincidentally, that is where Russell drove brilliantly as a one-off replacement for Lewis Hamilton in late 2020.
For while Mercedes say their drivers are free to compete against each other, it seems logical that Russell’s task will also be helping Hamilton to wrestle back the title he narrowly lost to Max Verstappen on the last lap of 2021.
The Mercedes were not the fastest in the practice sessions. Russell insisted that he and Hamilton were committed to working together as they face strong opposition.
“There is really good respect between Lewis and I. We both recognise we need to work together to push forward because our competition isn’t with each other, it is against Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren. If we start battling internally, trying to be secretive about set-ups, it’s not going to benefit anybody. We are all here to win, and beating your teammate is not the sole goal for any of us,” he said.
Although Hamilton missed out on a record eighth title, which would have moved him ahead of Michael Schumacher, he has long been an inspiration to Russell for his endless work ethic.
Russell joined the Mercedes junior program in 2017 before starting out in F1 with Williams, which uses Mercedes engines, in 2019.
He produced some impressive performances in a much slower car, particularly at the Belgian Grand Prix last year when he qualified second with outstanding driving in the wet.
Over two seasons in 2019 and ’20, Russell beat his teammates in every qualifying.