Lewis Hamilton has stopped ‘the changing of the guard’ at Mercedes

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell standing under an umbrella. Azerbaijan, June 2022.

Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell standing under an umbrella in the pit lane. Azerbaijan, June 2022.

Ex-F1 racer Jolyon Palmer says Lewis Hamilton has turned the tide against Mercedes team-mate George Russell and silenced the doubters.

There was great intrigue surrounding the new Mercedes driver line-up for 2022, the harmonious partnership of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas broken up after the duo delivered five Constructors’ titles in succession.

It was Russell who took Bottas’ place, Mercedes’ junior driver who had impressed in his three seasons on loan at Williams.

All eyes were on the pair then to see how Hamilton would deal with his new team-mate, tipped as a possible future World Champion, and for a time earlier in the season it was Russell picking up the best of Mercedes’ results, establishing a buffer over Hamilton in the Drivers’ standings.

Hamilton’s head had dropped a little, but as the season has gone on, Mercedes extracting more performance out of their underwhelming W13, Hamilton has returned to form, the seven-time World Champion claiming three P2 finishes so far in the campaign, his latest coming at the United States GP.

There Hamilton was leading and was on for the win after a slow pit stop had dropped his 2021 title rival Max Verstappen to P3, but such is the dominant performance of Verstappen in the Red Bull RB18 in race trim, he passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and then Hamilton, who put up a valiant fight, to take his 13th win of the season.

Russell finished that race P5 to complete what was a scruffy weekend for the Brit, Palmer suggesting that Hamilton has now reversed the trend of Russell gaining the upper hand which had emerged.

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

Speaking on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast, after F1 commentator Jack Nicholls had mentioned self-doubt from Hamilton, Palmer said: “It’s the start of the season isn’t it? With George at the start of the season.

“New team-mate, new pressures with being one of the older drivers in the championship, he’s the second-oldest behind Fernando [Alonso] now.

“And always when you have a changing of the guard, there’s new pressures and George Russell coming in, Lewis was comfortable alongside Valtteri Bottas for the last handful of seasons, but when you have a new talented youngster come in, it can change the dynamic.

“Hamilton did it himself when he came into Formula 1 and overtook Fernando Alonso, and it shifted the power of the future.

“And there was a moment earlier in the season where it looked like Russell was doing it and wow, was this the changing of the guard? Is this Russell now is the future of Mercedes? In the same way [Charles] Leclerc beat [Sebastian] Vettel, same way as [Daniel] Ricciardo beat Vettel and then [Max] Verstappen beat Ricciardo at Red Bull.

“But he’s overcome it emphatically as the season has gone on. When Mercedes look like they’re going to win, it’s always Hamilton that’s at the wheel.

“He was a long way ahead of George [in Austin] and I think he has silenced the doubters that were there, because they came out pretty hard at the start of the season.”

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