Lewis Hamilton accused of getting ‘comfortable’ with Bottas before Russell ‘wake-up’

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell walk on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell walk together.

1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve believes George Russell has proven a “wake-up call” to Lewis Hamilton after a “comfortable” time of things alongside Valtteri Bottas.

F1 2024 marks Hamilton’s third season as team-mate to younger compatriot Russell, who took over from Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes in 2022 to bring an end to what was an ultra-successful driver pairing.

George Russell was Lewis Hamilton ‘wake-up call’

With Hamilton and Bottas at the wheel, Mercedes hoovered up every Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship on offer between 2017-21, though those five Drivers’ crowns all went the way of Hamilton, with Bottas at no point able to mount a title challenge against his team-mate.

Russell’s arrival coincided with the start of F1’s new ground effect era and Mercedes’ fall from grace, the 26-year-old’s victory in Brazil in 2022 Mercedes’ only one since the new regulations took effect, that a debut season where Russell outscored Hamilton across the year. Hamilton struck back in 2023, but Russell has started F1 2024 as the stronger Mercedes driver.

And when speaking to GPFans, Villeneuve has described Russell’s Mercedes presence as a “wake-up call” for the seven-time World Champion Hamilton, who confirmed ahead of the season that he will make the shock switch to Ferrari as of 2025.

“It’s hard for a driver when you’ve spent years winning, and some years easy winning, especially when you had Bottas as a team-mate,” said Villeneuve in regards to Hamilton.

“He was alone in the championship, basically. He didn’t even need to be at his best to win like he had to do in his first championship. Or a few other years against Nico [Rosberg] because Nico was really pushing him.

“He got really comfortable with Bottas, and he had a little bit of a wake-up call in 2022 when George joined.

“George just had that young energy, wanting to destroy the world, and he did a lot better last year.

“Now, going to Ferrari might be like that little shock that you get… to give him that ‘youth’ attitude.”

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Before his Ferrari chapter begins though, Hamilton has the Mercedes one to close, which has not started out in the greatest fashion following P7 and P9 finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia respectively.

Hamilton was particularly downbeat at the latter round, stressing Mercedes still has major work to do with their W15, as 13-time grands prix winner and Channel 4 pundit David Coulthard suggested Hamilton “mentally” seems to already be at Ferrari.

And once that move takes place, Villeneuve hopes the “Lewis of his winning days” will return.

“It’s one of the best news we’ve had in a long, long time,” said Villeneuve of Hamilton to Ferrari.

“Whether you’re a fan of Lewis or not, it’s huge news. It’s amazing news for F1, for Ferrari, and for Lewis. It’s good for everyone.

“It will be exciting to follow, and hopefully, we get the Lewis of his winning days back.

“That change might build-up the hunger again, that little adrenaline rush that wasn’t there with the Mercedes that wasn’t winning anymore.”

Hamilton has not tasted victory since way back at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

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