Russell’s turn to show Mercedes boss what he can do in F1
“It’s incredibly inspiring and motivating for me to try to reach the heights that Lewis has achieved,” said Russell, 24.
Bottas never won the world title and only rarely pushed Hamilton. Russell could do better, but circumstances could play a part.
Because if Mercedes says its drivers are free to compete, it seems logical that Russell’s task will also help Hamilton reclaim the title he narrowly lost to Max Verstappen in the final round of 2021.
“Lewis is a fighter and his top priority is to be the best version of himself when he takes to the track in Bahrain,” Russell said. “He knows what it takes.”
Although Hamilton missed out on a record eighth title, which would have edged him over Michael Schumacher, he has long been an inspiration to Russell for his endless work ethic.
“It always amazes me how someone as talented and successful as Lewis continues to strive for more,” Russell said. “I think we can work really well together to take the team forward.”
Likely not against each other, like when Hamilton and former team-mate Nico Rosberg had a big fight in 2015 and 2016 – last year Hamilton was beaten for the title until Verstappen ended his race last season.
Hamilton and Russell could have more work to do than expected, given how pre-season testing has gone this week. Red Bull and Ferrari emerged quicker and Mercedes struggled with “porpoising” – a new F1 term describing how cars bounce around the track.
Mercedes have won eight constructors’ titles in a row, so it seems absurd to consider them panicked.
But there is real concern.
“We seem to be a step behind our rivals and we have a lot of work to do,” Russell said. “Red Bull looks incredibly strong, Ferrari looks really solid.”
This is precisely the kind of honesty that Hamilton appreciates in Russell.
“He seems very authentic and he’s just focused on being the best team player he can be,” Hamilton said. “It went smoothly and we communicate a lot.”
Mercedes is a different world for Russell compared to his previous team, lowly Williams. But the meticulous Englishman is in sponge mode and absorbs everything he can.
“They are absolutely on top of every detail,” he said. “It’s so impressive, from the simplest things to the most technical. I really feel like I’m at home. »
Russell joined the Mercedes junior program in 2017 before making his F1 debut with Williams, which uses Mercedes engines, in 2019.
Russell’s talent is no secret.
When Hamilton was kicked out of the Sakhir Grand Prix at the end of 2020, after contracting the coronavirus, it was Wolff who contacted Russell this time.
“I got a phone call from Toto at 2 a.m.,” Russell said. “I was in the bathroom, which was a bit awkward.”
Russell amazed many observers with the level of his conduct. He outplayed the much more experienced Bottas, set the fastest lap, and might even have won if not for bad team decisions.
This ride was even more exceptional because not only had he never raced in Hamilton’s car, but he also had larger feet and to fit the car he had to go down a size and slide into size 10 racing boots.
For two seasons in 2019 and 20, Russell beat his teammates in every qualification.
It seems impossible that he will erase Hamilton, the F1 record holder with 103 pole positions.
But Hamilton sees Russel as “incredibly talented” and sees in him a similar drive to succeed.
“You see this picture of him as a kid, when I was at McLaren,” Hamilton said. “Of course he had an amazing run to get into Formula 1. I have no doubt he will be a serious contender.
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