Two-time F1 champ Mika Hakkinen believes that the experience alongside George Russell could irritate the “sensitive” Lewis Hamilton.
After the turbulent times of Nico Rosberg and Hamilton together at Mercedes, the arrival of Valtteri Bottas for 2017, who replaced 2016 World Champion Rosberg following his retirement, brought calmness back to the Silver Arrows and repaired the inter-team atmosphere.
While Bottas was never able to mount a title challenge against Hamilton, he did nonetheless, alongside keeping everything harmonious, help Mercedes successfully capture all five Constructors’ titles on offer during his time with the team.
One race into the season, there have not yet been any fireworks between the all-British pairing, though in that sense it has helped that Mercedes were not a contender for pole or the victory in Bahrain.
So, depending on how this season and the dynamic between Hamilton and Russell plays out, Hakkinen can see Hamilton becoming somewhat uncomfortable.
“I believe and I know from my experience that Lewis is relatively sensitive,” said Hakkinen in a video for the Unibet YouTube channel.
“He is a sensitive person. When Valtteri was Lewis’ team-mate, the teamwork was perfect. Now, the support he’s going to get from Russell…The teamwork could be lost. That’s where Lewis can become irritated.”
While Hamilton was left without the performance in the W13 to compete for the Bahrain win, the same was not true for his 2021 title rival and reigning World Champion Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver played his part in a thrilling battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc over the lead following their first stops.
After winning out there, Leclerc went on to control the race and claim victory, with Verstappen forced to retire from P2 in the closing stages due to a suspected fuel pump problem.
Hakkinen expects that Verstappen will thrive this season now that the pressure of winning his first title has been lifted.
In fact, he said that having a title in the bag, from his experience, gives the driver a two-tenth boost in performance.
“I’m sure he will be faster than ever, I know from my experience that a title is about two-tenths per lap faster,” said the 1998 and 1999 World Champion.
“It’s incredible, but it makes you more confident. The driving becomes more precise. You don’t just go full speed, you also know what a good lap is. I think Max is capable of that. But the question is how much risk he will take? We’ll see how much risk he’s willing to take.”
Verstappen is not the only Red Bull driver with 2022 title ambitions, as his team-mate Sergio Perez also has set his eyes on that prize.
However, while making it clear that he does not want to sound like “I don’t respect him”, Hakkinen ultimately does not believe that Perez “has a chance of becoming World Champion”.
Hakkinen: Hamilton could get ‘irritated’ with Russell dynamic
Mika Hakkinen thinks that Lewis Hamilton could get frustrated with his Mercedes team-mate George Russell.