Hamilton v Russell predicted to be ‘10 times worse’ than Hamilton v Rosberg

Oliver Harden
Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton look forward. Bahrain, March 2022.

Mercedes team-mates George Russell and Lewis Hamilton stand together and look forward. Bahrain, March 2022.

A respected Formula 1 observer has predicted a fierce battle between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell if Mercedes can produce a winning car for the 2023 season.

After replacing Hamilton’s former wingman Valtteri Bottas last winter, Russell excelled in his first season as a Mercedes driver in 2022, outscoring his illustrious team-mate by 35 points and claiming the team’s only victory of the year in Brazil.

Hamilton, meanwhile, endured the first winless campaign of his career and was beaten by a team-mate across a season for the first time since he lost the World Championship to Nico Rosberg in a tense battle in 2016.

Mercedes’ competitive end to the 2022 season has grown expectations that the team will return to regular race-winning contention next year, having won eight consecutive Constructors’ titles between 2014 and 2021.

Speaking via his Twitch channel, former Williams and Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor believes the partnership between Russell and Hamilton has the potential to turn explosive.

“I think it’ll be 10 times worse than Rosberg/Hamilton,” he said.

“I think what you saw in Barcelona on that opening lap [in 2016] between Lewis and Nico is just the start of it between George and Lewis. Up another level.

“George is tough and hard and he’s going to drive into Lewis quite a lot if they’re in race-winning, Championship-winning cars, for sure.

“I think Lewis will still be Lewis – he’s still the best driver I’ve ever seen, since Niki [Lauda] maybe, at not getting involved in somebody else’s accident – but George will be right there every race.

“It’ll be so annoying for Lewis – which is why I keep saying that, in reality, if you’ve got Lewis you’re better off with Valtteri [as his team-mate].”

Hamilton recently dismissed suggestions that his relationship with Russell risks developing into an issue for Mercedes.

“I’m a lot older and I’ve been with the team so long, so managing whatever challenges we come up with moving forward, we’ve been through so much that I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” he said.

However, Russell himself admitted he expects a “different dynamic” within the team if Mercedes return to the front in 2023.

George Russell’s Austin misjudgement was a warning sign for Mercedes

When Charles Leclerc joined Ferrari in 2019 it did not take him long to steal the Scuderia’s hearts and minds from his decorated team-mate Sebastian Vettel, setting his first pole position in just his second outing in red in Bahrain.

But the pair could so easily have clashed at the very first corner of their first race together, Leclerc only just avoiding a collision with Vettel at the start in Melbourne as those Ferrari hearts briefly shot up to their mouths.

The Mercedes equivalent of that moment came in Austin in October when Russell, starting from the advantageous inside row of the grid, sensed an opportunity to gain positions.

War could so easily have broken out as Russell made a misjudgement into Turn 1 but rather than slamming into Hamilton, thankfully for Mercedes, he took out polesitter Carlos Sainz instead.

Had the Silver Arrows made contact at that point – there was another near-miss at the following race in Mexico – their subsequent duel for victory three weeks later at Interlagos would have assumed a far more personal edge and already there would be talk of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff having to control Hamilton and Russell for the good of the team.

With both living to fight another day in Texas, however, the world was saved… for now.

Read more: Could Mick Schumacher benefit from team boss shake-up with Andreas Seidl joining Audi?