Suspicions raised over Lewis Hamilton ‘mind games’ against George Russell

Mark Scott
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton smiling and wearing sunglasses. Belgium August 2022

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton smiling and wearing sunglasses. Belgium August 2022

FIA press conference host Tom Clarkson has suspicions that Lewis Hamilton is playing “mind games” with George Russell at Mercedes.

The two British drivers are into their second year as team-mates together at the Silver Arrows and it is arguably the battle that is scrutinised the most by the F1 media circle.

Russell – having beaten Hamilton in his first year at Mercedes – is 3-0 up in this year’s qualifying battle but trails the seven-time World Champion by 20 points in the overall standings, his unfortunate DNF in Australia certainly not helping his cause.

Clarkson, like many others, is fascinated by the Hamilton-Russell dynamic at Mercedes and there is a bubbling desire to see the partnership descend into similar scenes of chaos last seen when Nico Rosberg was in the opposite side of the garage.

And Clarkson wonders if Hamilton is already planting the seeds by lulling his team-mate into a false sense of security.

“In the press conference [in Australia], after qualifying, they’d qualified second and third in Melbourne. Max, of course on pole,” Clarkson said on the F1 Nation podcast.

“And every time a question was posed to both of the Mercedes drivers, Lewis was quite happy for George to answer the question.

“He almost became the spokesperson for the team in that press conference. And I was interested as to why Lewis was happy to just sit back and let that happen. I don’t know whether he’s sort of keeping his powder dry.

“Is he trying to sort of give him a sort of false hope of being the dominant person, and then he’s going to really hit him hard where it matters most on the stopwatch later on?

“I don’t know what his thought process was. But it was interesting anyway, to observe that he very much let George be the man.”’s recommended reading

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Asking 1996 World Champion Damon Hill whether “mind games” were in play, Hill replied: “We [drivers] are competitive.

“And we are kind of political as well. You have to be aware of rising forces or rising empires within the team. George has to make himself a valued asset of the team. And he’s obviously doing that really well.

“But at the same time, he’s the one that has to do all the hard work. I think Lewis doesn’t have to. They [Mercedes] know what they’ve got with Lewis, and they know that given half a sniff of a chance, he’s going to be back on on top form and can deliver those extraordinary races.

“They know that George can do that too. But he has yet to prove all that.

“So I think Lewis is very good and will suss all this out and then he’ll be sitting there thinking ‘well, okay, I’ll let you do all the hard work, George, because it’s exhausting doing all this’.

“George is also the director of GPDA so he’s got a big workload, George, he’s taken on quite a lot.

“But I think Lewis’ strategy has always been to remove as many distractions as possible and leave time for downtime and clarity.”

Only small sign of tension between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell

It appears Damon Hill is heading in the right direction with his analysis over this particular part of the Hamilton-Russell dynamic.

It is hard to imagine there is anything more in this than simply Hamilton wanting to sit through as much as the press conference as possible without having to speak.

Most, if not all drivers, could think of a million different places they would rather be than stuck babbling away in a press conference.

With no title to fight over, those wanting to see a repeat of Hamilton v Rosberg are going to be left disappointed at this stage.

However, we have seen little sparks flicker between the two when Hamilton suggested George Russell’s P4 in Jeddah was more down to getting lucky with the set-up route he went down – something which Russell strongly disagreed with.

With Red Bull dominating the sport, the media will be looking high and low for the smallest crumbs to nibble on elsewhere to try and make this year as exciting and entertaining as possible.

Expect to see every little moment between Hamilton v Russell to be pored over in intricate detail.