Lewis Hamilton has played down talk that George Russell could threaten his position as Mercedes’ main man this season. This weekend, the 2022 F1 campaign gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the Silver Arrows’ new dynamic is unsurprisingly attracting mass interest. After three years of impressing Mercedes figures at Williams, Toto Wolff called upon Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton’s teammate this season.
Bottas leaves after five successful years, winning all five possible constructors’ championships and helping Hamilton to four world titles. Russell, 24, has big racing gloves to fill, and there is plenty of intrigue about how Mercedes will fare after changing their driver line-up for the first time since Nico Rosberg’s sudden 2016 exit.
But Hamilton has suggested Russell has settled in admirably after being around the team for years before his official arrival this year. He said: “He [Russell] has gelled very easily into the team. It has been pretty similar to when we worked together previously within the engineering room for plenty of races in the past where he just sat behind me and watched everything I did and the same with Valtteri [Bottas].
He knew everyone, so it’s been seamless. We’re working together, communicating a lot in terms of setup direction, so it’s working really well. I have no idea when the first time we started working together was. I just remember him being in the engineers’ room with us and feeling very much a part of the team and one of my teammates before this year. So that’s why it’s been quite easy.”
Many expect Russell to challenge Hamilton more than Bottas, which could spark a potentially-treacherous intra-team battle. However, the 37-year-old claims Russell is ‘focused’ on being a team player as Mercedes pursue a ninth successive constructors’ title. I think George is naturally incredibly talented, very, very focused,” Hamilton explained. “So far, it seems very genuine, and he’s just focused on being the best team player he can be.
That’s so far from what I see. As I said, it’s pleasant for everyone in the team, it seems very seamless, and everyone’s just working, keeping their heads down, and we are working collectively as a team and as a unit.”