‘George Russell has the edge over Lewis Hamilton like Senna did against Prost’

Oliver Harden
George Russell in focus with Lewis Hamilton in the background. Bahrain March 2022.

George Russell in focus with Lewis Hamilton in the background during a photoshoot. Bahrain March 2022.

Formula 1 pundit Peter Windsor believes George Russell has an advantage over Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying in a similar way to how Ayrton Senna had an edge over Alain Prost at McLaren.

After replacing Valtteri Bottas, Russell excelled in his first season as a Mercedes driver in 2022, claiming the team’s only victory as seven-time World Champion Hamilton endured the first winless campaign of his illustrious career.

The trend has continued into the new season, with Russell outqualifying Hamilton at all but one of the first five races of 2023.

Hamilton qualified 13th at last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix before recovering to sixth, two places behind Russell but 18 seconds behind.

Asked by a viewer during a recent YouTube stream to pinpoint the areas in which Hamilton is weak compared to Russell and his predecessor Bottas,  Windsor pointed to the younger man’s daring and precision on a qualifying lap.

He said: “I don’t think he’s got any weakness compared with Bottas.

“Nothing against Valtteri but I don’t see one area where he was better than Lewis.

“I think George is better than Lewis a little bit in the way that Senna was better than Prost in qualifying sometimes.

“Just incredibly fine, not judgement, but just taking it a little bit further.

“If Lewis is leaving three centimetres, George will leave one-and-a-half on a qualifying lap – and sometimes it’ll result in an error as it did obviously in qualifying for the sprint race in Baku.

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“I think it’s just that. I think that’s the way George has always driven. He’s absolutely no margin at all and sometimes it gets the better of him.

“And I think that’s where possibly you could argue he has [an edge] over Lewis, but you could say that’s the quality of Lewis that he doesn’t put himself in that position and he’s more on top of the car and very rarely does he make the sort of mistakes that George does when he’s right on the edge.

“The sort of mistakes Lewis makes are standard mistakes like getting the tyre warm up wrong or traffic, not pacing the traffic correctly, or maybe making a judgement call on setup and the tyre pressure doesn’t go the way they think it’s going to go – things like that.

“But then George makes the same mistakes like that.

“I would say that it’s only that and I still think Lewis has got a wider palette of operational factors that he can play with than George in terms of his natural ability and what he can do with the car over a period of time.”

Bottas won 10 races in five full seasons as a Mercedes driver between 2017 and 2021 as Hamilton won four consecutive World Championships to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles.

Windsor was insistent that Bottas never offered a serious challenge to Hamilton, adding: “I don’t see anywhere where Bottas was better than Lewis.

“He beat him sometimes because he had a better setup or the race went his way for some reason.

“Occasionally Bottas outqualified Lewis [but] it didn’t happen very often, did it?

“Usually Bottas was quick but then come qualifying and the track changes and suddenly he lost two or three tenths, but occasionally he was quick.

“I think one lap, new set of soft tyres, Lewis has a slight problem [and] doesn’t get the pressures quite right or whatever, then Bottas was quick enough to beat him.

“But it didn’t amount to much in terms of how you quantify their abilities.”