George Russell has said Lewis Hamilton is an “incredibly unique” person to have as a team-mate, and revealed a key takeaway from their first season together.
Russell made his step up to the frontline of F1 in 2022, promoted from Williams after three years toiling in the lower midfield aside from a single stand-in appearance for Mercedes at the end of the 2020 season due to an illness for Hamilton.
The British driver took to racing with Mercedes with aplomb, outscoring his illustrious team-mate after a strong opening half of the season as Hamilton worked away on experimental set-ups to unlock more performance from a recalcitrant W13.
Hamilton came back strongly against Russell in the second half of the season, until Russell scored Mercedes’ sole victory of 2022 after leading home a 1-2 in Brazil.
Looking back over what had been a strong first season with his new team, earning praise from senior staff, his team boss, as well as Hamilton, Russell said it hasn’t been an easy ride learning alongside such a tough teammate.
“I feel very fortunate to be in this team, a teammate of Lewis, learning a huge amount and being pushed to my limits,” he said, speaking to the High Performance Podcast.
“It’s not easy being teammates with somebody as fast and great as he is. But it has been a great year in many regards. What we all do – every single person in this paddock – we are so fortunate to travel the world, us driving the fastest cars in the world around the best tracks in the world.
“I’m knackered now but, still, there’s a lot to look back on and be happy about.”
George Russell: There was a lot of tension during the year
With Mercedes unable to join in the title fight during Russell’s first season alongside Hamilton, the British driver believes this ultimately proved beneficial for their relationship – revealing tensions had been quite high at different points during the season as the team internally sought ways to improve performance.
“I think, for sure, the dynamic would have been slightly different had we arrived at the first race and had the fastest car on the grid,” he said.
“There has been a huge amount of late nights throughout this season, a lot of tension at times between drivers, teams, designers with regards to are we on the right track – do we need to be doing something different, more drastic?
“These were very difficult conversations. But we come away from them growing closer together. We’ve got such great leadership within Mercedes that we are now all pushing in one direction. I truly believe this experience we’ve been through this year will lead to more long-term success.”
George Russell: Lewis Hamilton proves there’s not just one path to success
Russell reflected on how racing alongside Hamilton has changed his thought process on how to achieve success, saying the seven-time World Champion’s unorthodox approach to life proves there’s no set path to victory.
“Lewis is an incredibly unique character,” he explained.
“I think he’s incredibly inspiring with all of his activities and projects he has off-circuit. When you look at drivers from the past who are just pure racing drivers, I’m going to wake up living and breathing this sport, he does things so differently to so many other people yet has still had so much success along the way.”
Put to him that Hamilton is ‘not a traditional racing driver’, Russell paused: “I’d say so. And yet he still had so much success.
“I think I’ve used this analogy before but, when I look at [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal, and [Novak] Djokovic, three greats of sport (tennis), statistically – all basically achieved exactly the same achievements, yet they have three totally different ways of playing it.
“I’m sure they trained differently. When you watch them, they look different. When you see them on court, they excel on different courts or playing fields or whatever. Yet, they’re three greats. I think the thing I take away from that, and also from what I take away from Lewis, is that there is no one path to success.
“I think you need to find your own path, your own journey, you need to have that self-belief that, even if somebody is going down a certain path, you need to follow your own course and you need to do what is best for you.”