Why Lewis Hamilton renewal ‘reinforced’ George Russell’s Mercedes confidence

Oliver Harden
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell look on in parc ferme at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, 2023.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell look on in parc ferme at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, 2023.

George Russell feels that Lewis Hamilton’s decision to sign a new contract with Mercedes has “reinforced” his own belief that the team can return to the top in F1.

Hamilton stands as the most successful driver in F1 history, having equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven World Championships in 2020 before becoming the first driver to surpass 100 grand prix victories and pole positions the following year.

However, he remains without a win since the penultimate round of the 2021 campaign in Saudi Arabia with Mercedes still struggling to adapt to the ground effect rules implemented at the start of 2022.

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

George Russell takes heart from Lewis Hamilton’s new Mercedes contract

With his previous deal due to expire at the end of this season, Hamilton’s future had been the subject of intense speculation in recent months before the British driver announced ahead of the recent Italian Grand Prix that he had put pen to paper on a two-year extension, which will take him to the brink of his 41st birthday.

Russell has enjoyed a productive relationship with Hamilton since replacing Valtteri Bottas last year and claimed Mercedes’ only victory since the ground effect regulations came into effect at Brazil 2022.

And the 25-year-old is heartened that Hamilton shares his view that Mercedes can recapture their former glories.

He told media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher: “I think it’s extremely important to continue with the two of us with the relationship we have, because you sometimes see when there’s a change of driver pairing the dynamic shifts slightly and it can upset a few things internally – and we know that we’ve never had any issues in that regard whatsoever.

“There’s a healthy competition that’s been there since day one, but we push one another in the same direction. We’ve got similar feedback with regards to the car, which also helps the designers pushing in one direction.

“But I think also for me to to see Lewis continuing is so important, it shows the belief he’s got in the team as well.

“I’ve got the belief in the team, but this is a guy who’s won 100 races, he doesn’t need to continue, he could happily hang his boots up with everything he’s achieved – but he wouldn’t stay if he didn’t believe that the team was capable of winning again.

“So I think that reinforces the confidence that I had in my team, but it’s definitely a boost for everybody back at the factory and all of the partners and everybody to see that Lewis still wants to continue and believes in the team.”

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Having enjoyed a strong start to his Mercedes career last year, Russell has struggled more compared to Hamilton in 2023 with just one podium finish to his team-mate’s four in the 14 races held so far.

Russell also trails Hamilton by 55 points in the Drivers’ standings, with Mercedes leading Ferrari by 45 points with eight rounds remaining.

Russell’s difficulties have caught the attention of Jacques Villeneuve, who told PlanetF1.com of his surprise that “the balance has shifted a bit this year” at Mercedes.

The 1997 World Champion went on to indicate that Russell was potentially slightly flattered by Mercedes’ own problems in 2022, drawing comparisons with Daniel Ricciardo’s breakthrough 2014 season against four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.

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