George Russell firmly believes Sir Lewis Hamilton will win his eighth title in 2021, giving the Mercedes driver the option to bow out “at the top of his game”.
Hamilton’s one-year contract extension with Mercedes for the 2021 campaign will do little to stop discussion and speculation as to when he may decide to step away from Formula 1 for good.
And at the front of the queue to join the Silver Arrows is a driver they already have on their books in the form of Russell, who thinks Hamilton has still got a few years left in him should he decide to continue into a new era of Formula 1 in 2022.
“I think there are a few more years left for him,” Russell told Sky Sports.
“Whether he decides to continue for a few more years, I think for any great sportsman it is probably quite nice to go out on the top of his game and I guess nobody knows how Mercedes are going to perform in 2022.
“He will win his eighth title this year. I have got no doubt. He will, statistically, be the greatest of all-time and will have an opportunity to bow out at the top.”
Russell was chosen as Hamilton’s replacement after the seven-time World Champion was ruled out of the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix following a positive Covid-19 test, and he looks back favourably on his Mercedes debut despite a series of unfortunate events denying him a memorable victory.
“I dwelled on it for about a week after,” Russell reflected.
“But I think in any sport you have got to overcome the defeats and if you let that affect you too much then you are never going to move on in life. You are always going to have races where you win and you are always going to have races where you’ve lost.
“But I saw that loss as a victory in itself because of the way it all panned out.
“I wasn’t overly stressed [about the call-up]. It was a really strange feeling for me and it was probably only after the race where I appreciated it and went ‘blimey, I was leading an F1 race. I could have won my first F1 race’.
“But, like I said, it wasn’t meant to be and it is behind me now. I’m just grateful that I got that opportunity [from Mercedes].”