‘Lewis Hamilton gave George Russell a wake-up call with 2022 resurgence’

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, Mercedes, on the drivers' parade. Mexico, October 2022.

Lewis Hamilton smiles and George Russell waves while the Mercedes pair are on the drivers' parade. Mexico, October 2022.

Lewis Hamilton gave George Russell a “wake-up call” after his successes early in the season, according to ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok.

Hamilton came into the 2022 campaign keen to bounce back from his agonising defeat to Max Verstappen in the 2021 Abu Dhabi title-decider, finding himself alongside a new team-mate in the form of Russell as part of this quest.

It was apparent as early as pre-season testing though that the Mercedes W13 was struggling, the Silver Arrows indeed starting out comfortably behind the leading pace of Ferrari and Red Bull.

Hamilton made the podium in the season-opening Bahrain GP, but then finished the next seven races behind Russell, albeit with the timings of the Safety Car influencing that streak on a couple of occasions.

Questions were asked about Hamilton and whether he could recover from the events of Abu Dhabi, but he answered emphatically with a far improved spell arguably from Canada onwards, scoring eight podiums from there, five of them P2 finishes.

The seven-time champ was in the hunt for victory at the United States GP, before following George Russell across the line in Sao Paulo to complete a Mercedes one-two, their only victory of the season.

And Chadhok believe that Russell “woke up the best” that is in Hamilton with the way he came flying out of the blocks.

“At the start of the year, it was looking quite good for George,” Chandhok told Sky Sports F1. “He was regularly outqualifying Lewis, but I think he had a little bit of a wake-up call around that middle part of the year where Lewis suddenly lifted his game.

“And George went on a run of around eight, nine races I think without outqualifying Lewis and I think at that point, he was going ‘whoa, this guy has woken up suddenly, you woke up the beast’.

“But to his credit, towards the end of the year, that weekend in Brazil obviously the standout, he came back and I’m fascinated to see how that goes.”

Mercedes put Hamilton’s early struggles down to a focus on trying different things to unlock performance in the W13, while Russell was free to maximise the results.

Nonetheless, Chandhok saw a Hamilton void of motivation in those times, comparing the situation to Ayrton Senna’s in 1993, where he finished runner-up to title-winning team-mate Alain Prost, and competed for the team on a race-by-race basis.

“Mercedes, they got the concept wrong, they’ve been very open about it,” said Chandhok.

“For me, one of the most intriguing things when we all go to Bahrain for pre-season testing next year, is what does the 2023 Mercedes look like? Because out of the cars that have run this year, they’re the ones that will, I think, look quite different.

“The Red Bull will be an evolution, the Ferrari will be an evolution. But the Mercedes needs to be quite different to get it to work.

“The drivers did a great job, I think, Lewis at the start of the year, I’m sure his motivation wasn’t there, and I can understand that.

“To me, and I said before in the season, it reminded me of Senna in ’93, this is a guy who is the number one driver of his generation, he arrives at the opening race and goes ‘gosh, I’ve got a car that’s only capable of qualifying on the third row of the grid’. Where’s the motivation? Fully understandable.

“Yet we go to Barcelona and they turned a bit of a corner and he rose to the challenge. You look at the season stats, I think from Canada onwards, 10-3 ahead of George in qualifying.”

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