Formula One

Russell sees ‘no risk’ of clashing with Hamilton in 2023


George Russell insists there is no risk that he will clash with Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in 2023, even if the squad is back on winning form and the drivers are vying for race wins and titles again.

“If our relationship starts to break up, it’s going to have an impact on the team, and ultimately it’s going to go full circle and affect us as well,” he said last month.

Russell finally joined the team at the start of 2022 after a long apprenticeship at the back of the grid with Williams. However the W13 proved to be problematic with various performance issues including ‘porpoising’.

It meant an end to Mercedes’ dominant run of eight back-to-back constructors championships, with only one race win all season when Russell emerged victorious in the Brazilian GP.

Hamilton spent much of the early part of the season engaged in ‘drastic’ development work while Russell was able to bed in with a remarkable run of top five finishes, meaning he ended ahead of Hamilton in the drivers championship.

“We bought a number of test items to every single track,” Russell explained when recalling this period. “They were the main development parts. They were always being alternated: one week was Lewis and one week as me, week in week out.

Second placed Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 congratulates race winner and team mate George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the podium.
13.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race

“Whenever there’s a development item, it does disrupt your race weekend,” he said. “That’s why it’s always fair and that’s why the team always does one week with Lewis, one week it’s me.”

Some have speculated that Russell had a better time of it as he was used to wrestling with a sub-standard car at Williams, while Hamilton was still seeking the sort of pure perfection from past seasons at Mercedes.

“For sure at the start of the year Lewis made more drastic set-up changes within the confines of the car,” he acknowledged. “But that was purely because I was in a happier place and he was still trying to find the set-up that suited him.”

But this season both drivers will be expecting to be fully back in contention right from the start against their Red Bull and Ferrari rivals – and that also inevitably means competing against each other to be the top dog at Brackley.

Russell insisted that while this would be a new dynamic for both drivers, it didn’t mean that it would be a return to the sort of explicit antipathy Hamilton experienced while racing alongside Nico Rosberg in 2016.

“Naturally if you are fighting for one-twos, there will be a slightly different dynamic and that’s only natural,” he told the media before Christmas.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the drivers parade. 30.10.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race

“We’ll need to give each other respect,” he said. “I think the thing we have going for us is the fact that we are at very different stages of our career.

“I think we gave each other respect,” he said. “We recognise the importance of that within the whole team.

Russell pointed out that the opening laps of last season’s Mexican GP was an example of how he and Hamilton could challenge each other without things spilling over.

“I think we can continue to build off this, and if anything our relationship will probably get closer as time goes on,” he said. “It kind of feels like we are in this together really.

“[If] we’ve got a car that’s capable of one-two finishes, we’ll have a huge amount of pride in thinking we have contributed together in helping the team achieve this.”

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Russell sees ‘no risk’ of clashing with Hamilton in 2023

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