What kind of team-mate will Russell be to Hamilton?

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the podium at Spa.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell fist-bump on the podium at Spa.

Lewis Hamilton has had a range of experiences with his team-mates so far in his career, so where will George Russell fit into that spectrum?

Hamilton’s stints with the driver on the other side of his garage have provided their fair share of controversial moments, but he has also had solid relationships within that time too.

Russell has been assured of equal status at Mercedes next year, but he said himself he wants to avoid the arguments of the past from Hamilton’s time with Nico Rosberg in the team.

Here is a look at the seven-time World Champion’s previous team-mates so far, and whether or not we can expect any similarities when Russell heads into the Mercedes garage:

Fernando Alonso (2007)

On the face of it, Hamilton’s partnership with Alonso at McLaren may have a similar back-story to what he will have with Russell – albeit not identical. Hamilton went to McLaren with high pedigree, having just won the GP2 championship and coming in to challenge the established order in partnering the reigning World Champion.

Many had perhaps expected the British rookie to play second fiddle to the Spaniard, but Hamilton quickly proved to be on Alonso’s pace and their relationship deteriorated as the season went on, with both drivers fighting for the title against each other right down to the last race.

If Russell is able to come into Mercedes and upset the applecart within the team, their relationship could go the same way as Hamilton and Alonso’s breakdown.

On the flip side to that, they could remain amicable with each other in the same way Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc managed when the Monegasque driver quickly got on Vettel’s pace when he joined Ferrari.

Heikki Kovalainen (2008-2009)

While Hamilton charged on towards his first World Championship in 2008, Kovalainen never quite managed to get on his McLaren team-mate’s pace on a regular basis. He went on to finish seventh in the standings while Hamilton famously overtook Timo Glock at the final corner at Interlagos to beat Felipe Massa to the title.

With that in mind, their relationship – in public at least – seemed relatively frictionless, as the Finn seemed pretty clearly cast in a support role to Hamilton.

Coupled with that, their difference in speed and the lack of competitiveness in the 2009 McLaren meant their time together will have been mostly spent on trying to improve the car rather than argue with each other off-track and battle for victories on it.

With massive regulation changes coming for next year, if Mercedes are slow out of the blocks then Russell and Hamilton are likely to adopt the relationship held by several midfield team-mates: working together for the good of the team instead of fighting amongst themselves.

Jenson Button (2010-2012)

Button arrived at McLaren as the reigning World Champion and, like Russell, was ensured he would be given equal treatment at the team before signing a deal.

But throughout their time together, Button said there were no real issues between him and Hamilton as they both battled at the head of the field and challenged Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.

Their firm-but-fair battle at Turkey in 2010 and collision at Canada in 2011 were the key flashpoints between the two, but Button said of their time together: “We got on, we didn’t really argue. There was a couple of times – misinformed, I would say, on both sides. We had a few issues but nothing major.”

In many ways, this would be the ideal scenario for Russell and Hamilton next year.

Both drivers were able to compete on an equal footing, race fairly without much friction and were able to work in the best interests of their team.

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Nico Rosberg (2013-2016)

Russell admitted himself he does not want a repeat of what happened between Hamilton and Rosberg to occur in their time as team-mates, and Mercedes will wholeheartedly agree.

Russell and Hamilton do not have the long-standing history he and the German had, however, for he and Rosberg had raced together since they were teenagers.

After a relatively positive start, the competition for titles in a Mercedes which was the class of the field by some distance saw the atmosphere at the team gradually grow ever sourer over time.

The pair had several clashes on track, but Rosberg has made no bones about the arguments they would have behind closed doors too. Clearly, the two have not made up either, with Hamilton scooting straight past his former team-mate while he was on the grid without so much as a ‘hello’.

If Hamilton and Russell are going toe-to-toe for the 2022 World Championship though, a similar strain between them cannot be ruled out completely.

Valtteri Bottas (2017-2021)

What could be a point of awkwardness for Russell as he enters the team is that he will be replacing the person whom Hamilton has openly described as his “best ever” team-mate in his career – and the longest-standing to boot, with five seasons together at Mercedes.

Although Bottas has shown himself to largely be on or close to Hamilton’s pace during qualifying, he has not been able to sustain that in race trim often enough for him to challenge the team leader for a World Championship – perhaps in a similar vein to his fellow countryman Kovalainen.

Unlike Rosberg and Hamilton, too, Bottas has been willing – albeit reluctantly – to play the team game and allow Hamilton through when the team have asked him to. Whether or not Russell would allow the same to happen to him, though, is another matter.

What is clear from the 23-year-old is he absolutely wants to make the most of the opportunity being given to him by Toto Wolff and the team as he moves up from being a Mercedes junior into the senior ranks.

In Russell’s favour, he was heard over team radio in Hungary before the summer break telling his team to prioritise Nicholas Latifi up ahead after the two had worked their way into the top 10 amid the carnage at Turn 1.

The young Briton has said he wants to take the opportunity to learn from, compete against and try to beat the most successful driver the sport has ever had, and how they will get on together at Mercedes will be an intriguing sub-plot in the 2022 season.