George Russell ‘relishing’ Lewis Hamilton battle as new Mercedes star backed for title
George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Mercedes newcomer George Russell has been backed to make a push for the Formula 1 world championship in his first season alongside Lewis Hamilton. The former Williams starlet has replaced Valtteri Bottas at the Silver Arrows, but that doesn’t mean settling for second best will be part of his agenda for the 2022 season.
Major F1 teams tend to arrange themselves with one recognised ‘senior’ driver alongside a No. 2, who may be expected to concede track position or points to benefit their partner.
And while the natural inclination may be to assume Russell will take up the latter role behind Hamilton, a panel of F1 experts have suggested he should be going for gold himself.
Hamilton still remains a slight doubt to feature in the 2022 F1 campaign and continues to be linked with retirement following the controversial end to last season.
Red Bull ace Max Verstappen denied the 37-year-old his record-breaking eighth world championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, largely due to the intervention of race director Michael Masi.
As such, Hamilton is sure to be particularly aggressive in his bid to surpass Michael Schumacher’s haul of seven world titles if he does race this year.
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But Mercedes simulator driver Anthony Davidson appeared on a special edition of Sky Sports’ F1 Show and encouraged Russell to go all the way in making his own attempt at top spot.
“It’s great to see, he’s so full of energy and this is his big moment, isn’t it?” Davidson said.
“His chance to step into, hopefully for his sake, a car that can run right at the sharp end and with Lewis Hamilton as your yard stick, the best in the business to measure yourself against.
“There’s nothing more that a driver like George wants than to go head to head with Lewis with the same equipment, and this is the time you can really see if you’re good enough.”
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A second-place finish at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix was a key indicator that Russell is good enough, though that remains his only F1 podium finish to date.
The new face in Brackley is well underway in his pre-season preparations with Mercedes after three years with Williams, standing on the verge of a substantial step up in prospects.
Hamilton was 23 when he won his maiden world title with McLaren in 2008, just a year younger than Russell will be come December.
Pit-lane report Ted Kravitz offered his opinion that being a member of the Silver Arrows alone was enough to expect a genuine title challenge.
“Russell has to be going for the championship, doesn’t he? If you’re in a Mercedes, you have to be going for the world championship,” he said.
Those comments came not long after two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen suggested Bottas was undervalued at Mercedes and could gain from his move to Alfa Romeo.
The Finn was rarely viewed as competition to his team-mate and won just 10 races in five seasons with Mercedes, while predecessor Nico Rosberg beat Hamilton to the world title in 2016.
Expectations will be high as Mercedes attempt to reclaim the F1 crown from Red Bull, and Hamilton is expected to return as favourite again despite last year’s loss.
Russell’s arrival throws a potential spanner in the works, however, and Hamilton’s actual top competition for the crown may be closer than he thinks.
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