George Russell (number 63) drove for Mercedes in the absence of Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in December and was the leader of the race for a long time before a Mercedes pit stop mistake cost him a possible win
Lewis Hamilton has welcomed the idea of George Russell becoming his teammate should the British aspiring star join Mercedes next season.
Russell is expected to replace Valtteri Bottas at the world champions, while the Finn is predicted to move to Alfa Romeo. None of the steps are confirmed.
Russell is “an incredibly talented driver” and “one of the members of the future of the sport,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton also said he expected their relationship to be “pretty good”.
The seven-time champion had ambivalent relationships with Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007 and with Nico Rosberg at Mercedes from 2013 to 2016.
But Hamilton said Mercedes is better equipped to deal with rivalry between teammates than it was in Rosberg’s time.
“We learned a lot about how we go about things,” said Hamilton. “We made a lot of mistakes along the way. That’s not a problem.
“Somebody new takes time. But George was already on the track with us.”
Russell was a substitute driver for Mercedes before making his F1 debut at Williams in 2019, driving for the team as a one-time substitute driver when Hamilton signed Covid ahead of last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Hamilton praised Russell’s achievements in Formula 1 and highlighted his qualifying at the abandoned Belgian Grand Prix last weekend when he brought his Williams into second place on the grid ahead of the world champion.
“The only highlight of last week was his qualifying lap – it was incredible,” said Hamilton. “He’s humble. He has a great approach. Being British I would imagine it probably helps in terms of communication.
“At the moment, of course, I have to support my team-mate, whom I have right now, very well. That’s why I always support Valtteri – because we just have a job to do. Neither of us can win the team.” Mastery alone, we have to do it together.
“George has already shown incredible driving performance and I’m sure he will continue to grow. So where could it be better than on a great team like this or whatever team he goes to?”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said he believed Russell would be a tough challenge for Hamilton if he switched to Mercedes.
“If he does, he’ll definitely make it very difficult for Lewis,” said Verstappen. “He jumped into the car in Bahrain and made it difficult for Valtteri from the first lap. The more time you have in the car and in the team, the faster you get.”
Hamilton said: “It’s not that I have to prove anything. I’ve raced as a team-mate against some incredible drivers. In my rookie year” [I drove] next to Fernando.
“If it turns out that I have a new team-mate, I’ll be in a different place in my life. I’m looking forward to seeing the young players.
“Obviously I don’t want to lose to a youngster, but I’m looking forward to seeing the sport progress. I’m a fan of the sport after all.”
Hamilton is preparing to boo
Hamilton goes three points ahead of Verstappen in the Dutch Grand Prix this weekend.
Returning to the F1 schedule for the first time since 1985, the historic Zandvoort circuit is expected to be full of passionate Dutch fans, the vast majority of whom support Verstappen.
Hamilton said he expected to be whistled at over the weekend.
“It is, of course, something you might expect,” he said. “I’ve never been someone to go to an event and boo, but I get it.
“You can see it in football. It’s just the passion they have or the dislike they have for their opponents. I respect that.”
“I’ve always enjoyed coming to Holland. Amsterdam is one of the greatest cities. I know I have some Team LH fans in the Netherlands – a small percentage! And I admire them for standing up to the boos.”
“For me, I try to channel the energy that drives you into me and use it positively – and try to put it into driving.”
Verstappen said, “I see it this way – when you go to a football game, you go to a home stadium, the opponent is whistled and it’s not up to the local club to go over the loudspeakers and say, ‘Folks,’ You can’t boo “Because it will happen. You are passionate and support the local team.
“It’s not for me to say, ‘Guys, you can’t boo.’ Do you think they’ll listen to me? I just hope they have a good weekend. “
Vettel supports environmental protest
The environmental organization Extinction Rebellion is said to be planning a protest against the race on Sunday.
F1 has announced plans to net zero by 2030 and Hamilton said, “It’s great that F1 is accepting and holding itself accountable and detailing that they need to make changes to move forward.”
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel said, “It’s important to get attention and that’s why they do it and that’s good. There are a lot of things that F1 is planning. But is it enough? No. Are we doing enough as humanity? No .
“It is important that we understand what is at stake and if we don’t understand it there is no future.
“It sounds very dark. But I think there is a place for F1 – provided it does the right things and takes the right steps. What they do is good, but it’s little more than a first step.”