Russell feared an ‘arse-kicking’ from Hamilton

Sam Cooper
George Russell in focus with Lewis Hamilton in the background. Bahrain March 2022.

George Russell has admitted he feared an “arse-kicking” from his team-mate Lewis Hamilton could mean an early exit from Mercedes.

After years of speculation, Russell finally made the move to Mercedes this season when he replaced Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton’s team-mate.

Anticipation was high to see how Russell would fare against Hamilton, with many complaining Bottas had been too comfortable a team-mate for Hamilton.

The expectation was Hamilton would still come out on top and Russell would challenge on occasions, but the reality has been the opposite.

As Mercedes’ season stumbles along, Russell has got the better from the temperamental W13 and leads Hamilton by 19 points in the Drivers’ standings.

Russell, though, has said while he tried to keep his expectations to a minimum when he joined Mercedes, he was aware an “arse-kicking” from Hamilton could see him out of the door earlier than he would have anticipated.

 

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“I like to look at things a bit more objectively,” Russell said on the Beyond The Grid podcast. “Things can change very quickly in Formula 1 and signing a piece of paper to join the greatest team of this era without doubt is obviously a huge moment.

“But if I don’t perform, if I go and get my arse kicked by the greatest driver of all time, what does it mean? Because in a year’s time I’ll probably be out the door.

“It was a huge step on my ladder, but it’s sort of like the image of the guy climbing the mountain – he thinks he’s at the top and he looks up and the peak’s miles away, and you get there and there’s another peak, and that’s kind of the way I look at it.

“There’s a lot to celebrate for a moment like that. I want to be a World Champion, I want to win races and signing that contract didn’t guarantee anything.”

Hamilton has also been full of praise for his new team-mate, declaring he saw the potential to be a World Champion in him.

“I won’t say it’s been tough [being Russell’s team mate]. It’s been pleasant, we’ve worked together incredibly well,” Hamilton told F1.com. “George has been super-positive, had a positive impact on the work environment.

“I definitely see he’s got so much potential in him [to be a World Champion] and he’s in the right place for it. I really think, whether or not I’m here, he has all the qualities to help take this team forward in the future and lead them to success, so I think it’s been the right choice for the team. I hope I can be a little bit of a part of helping him to progress.”