Lewis Hamilton believes new Mercedes team-mate George Russell will be a “strong competitor”
Lewis Hamilton says he is excited to “engage” and “collaborate” with new Mercedes driver George Russell ahead of the 2022 F1 season.
On Friday, the team revealed the new-look car they hope to continue their record-breaking F1 title streak with after securing eight consecutive constructors’ championships.
Hamilton’s reaction to his final-lap 2021 title defeat to Max Verstappen was the focal point of questioning as he spoke to the media for the first time since the controversy surrounding last season’s final race in Abu Dhabi, and ultimately he said he is “focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger”.
Lewis Hamilton says it was a ‘difficult time’ and that he needed to step back after the season finale in Abu Dhabi
But things will be a little different at Mercedes this season, with Hamilton’s team-mate for the past five years – Valtteri Bottas – having been replaced by former Williams driver George Russell, who is expected to provide a fresh challenge.
Hamilton said of Russell: “Of course, he’s had an amazing run getting to Formula 1 and he was already a part of our team so I’ve seen him around engineering, in the simulator and obviously at Williams.
“So he fits in and fits the position like a glove and so far it’s great.
“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.”
Hamilton speaks about his World Championship defeat, how it affected him, and his ongoing relationship with the sport
While 37-year-old Hamilton has 103 race wins and seven titles to his name and 24-year-old Russell can only boast one podium in 60 races, Hamilton says he won’t overlook the challenge the young driver presents.
“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.”
Mercedes have unveiled the new F1 W13 for the 2022 season, returning to their traditional silver livery
Russell: Huge amount of respect between us
After fighting for points at the back of the grid, the expectation is that Russell comes in and competes for podium places – and that will mean tussles with Hamilton.
However, Russell, a graduate from the Mercedes driver line-up, believes the two will work well as a team.
Russell says it’s surreal to join his childhood hero Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
“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.
New Mercedes driver George Russell admits he got ‘goosebumps’ when seeing the new car in action
“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.”
Wolff: The dynamic is new
Mercedes’ goal remains unchanged from a 2014-21 hybrid era they dominated, although the completely new rules aimed at improving wheel-to-wheel overtaking and competitiveness through the field present a challenge.
Mercedes released pictures of Hamilton helping Russell at his seat fitting ahead of their 2022 car launch
Team principal Toto Wolff is excited to see his pairing on the track, despite previously admitting “we don’t even know if we’re going to be in the hunt for a new title” with new regulations in place.
He said: “We never had a situation where one and two, they have equal opportunities and the same car.
“This year, the interesting situation is we have in George the up-and-coming star [in one seat], and undoubtedly the best Formula 1 driver ever in the other seat.
“So the dynamic is new and clearly it’s something that we will try to steer in a direction that has the most positive effect on developing the car and making us overall competitive.”
Mercedes launched their W13 car on Friday, with the first pre-season test in Barcelona starting on February 23. The season then gets under way – after another three-day test – with the Bahrain GP on March 20.