Mercedes’ theory on why George Russell adapted quicker than Lewis Hamilton to W13

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. Singapore October 2022.

With his under-performing W13 still a step up from the Williams cars he used to race, Andrew Shovlin reckons that allowed George Russell to adapt to Mercedes’ 2022 challenger with more ease than Lewis Hamilton did.

Russell joined Mercedes last season, partnering Lewis Hamilton for the first time, with the two Britons lining up on the grid having experienced contrasting fortunes in their previous seasons.

While Russell had been struggling to make it out of Q1 and score points, Hamilton was romping from pole positions to race wins to World titles.

That meant when they were faced with the ill-tempered W13, it was Russell who was more used to that sort of challenge.

Both, however, found their feet as the season progressed with Hamilton taking the fight to Red Bull in Austin and Mexico before Russell won the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

“The routes [of] Lewis through to that point and George through to that point were quite different,” Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Shovlin told Autosport.

“Lewis I think had a rather sort of sudden period of adjustment from a car that he knew that he could, if he delivered what he was capable of, he’d be fighting for the win at any given weekend.

“George, having come from Williams, I think his experience there probably put him in good stead to deal with the car we were racing and trying to qualify at the start of the year.

“I think there was an element with George where he was probably hoping the experience would be a bit more different from the one he was used too, but he was very good at just getting on with the challenge that was in front of him.

“And I think to be honest in the early part of the year, it probably was easier for George to adapt than it was for Lewis.”

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The Briton revealed he was also impressed at how well Russell and Hamilton gelled from the get-go, the two working together to help Mercedes recover.

“What was nice to see almost straightaway was the two of them were working to put the team in a better place,” he continued.

“The way they were working together, the way they were happy to share out the workload – the number one focus was on improving the car, not squabbling over who was going to finish fifth and who was going to finish sixth.

“And it’s nice that you’ve got that maturity within the drivers and maturity within the team because ultimately, the whole engineering group working together and the drivers working together is the way that you shortcut the time it takes you to get back to where you want to be.”

Can George Russell beat Lewis Hamilton again in 2023?

Last season Russell became only the third Formula 1 team-mate to beat Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship, P4 to the seven-time World Champion’s P6.

Out-scoring him by 35 points, he slotted into second place in the points tally with only Jenson Button’s 43-point margin in 2011 greater. Nico Rosberg only pipped Hamilton by five points in 2016, although that was for the biggest prize of them all – the World title.

It had Russell conceding: “If I had been told that at the beginning of the season, I would have been incredibly proud and happy. After all, nine times out of ten, when you finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton, you probably become World Champion.”

But can he beat Hamilton again this coming season when a World title may be on the cards?

While it was Hamilton who had the better pace in the latter part of the season, Russell was the more consistent of the two over the course of the 22-race campaign.

He also has something to prove. Yes he beat Hamilton last season but that was when nothing was at stake, there was no reason to race hard against his team-mate.

This season he has to show the world – and Hamilton – that he’s not a push-over and that he’ll stick his elbows out if that’s required. If he does that, expect a few team-mate clashes – and crashes. And for Russell to pip Hamilton once again.