George Russell’s promotion to a Mercedes race seat has ‘unbalanced’ the team, after years of harmony with Valtteri Bottas alongside Lewis Hamilton.
Russell was called up by Mercedes from Williams to replace Bottas at the end of 2021, with Toto Wolff opting to make the change in order to safeguard Mercedes’ long-term future against the possibility of Hamilton retiring or moving on.
But, with Hamilton continuing in the sport and signing up for another two years at the end of his current contract, his relationship with team-mate George Russell is evolving – tensions between the pair appear to be rising, as evidenced by their gloves-off battle in Japan.
Peter Windsor: Mercedes are an imbalanced team
Appearing on his own YouTube stream after the Japanese Grand Prix, former Williams and Ferrari UK manager Peter Windsor was asked whether he feels Russell is World Champion-level material after his high-profile error in Singapore.
Windsor proceeded to address the topic, and said Russell’s arrival at Mercedes has changed the dynamic fundamentally from the more balanced hierarchy that was achieved with Hamilton and the more subservient Bottas.
“The point is this should also be seen in the context of Lewis telling Toto endlessly to keep Valtteri, ‘He’s exactly the right guy’, and [Toto saying] ‘No no, no, we’ve got to have the next generation, George is the next generation, and quicker [etc.]’,” Windsor said.
“I blame a lot of the press for that because a lot of them were saying ‘Oh, you know Valtteri isn’t quick enough, George is quicker’ and, of course, then he won that race.
“I just come back to my thing of… if you’ve got Lewis, you don’t actually need George. If you’ve got George, you don’t need Lewis. It’s an imbalanced team, always has been, always will be, and that is the problem with it.”
Windsor pointed to the example of Red Bull, who have a much more clear pecking order with Max Verstappen the undisputed number one with Sergio Perez struggling to keep up but contributing enough to ensure championship success for the Milton Keynes-based squad.
“If you’ve got Max, you don’t need a George in the other car, you need a Perez,” he said.
“That’s why Red Bull is so good, one of the reasons they are so good.
“You don’t necessarily need anybody better than Perez because Max is there. It’s the same, we’ve got Lewis, so you don’t need a George – you need a Valtteri. And that’s the problem.
“That’s why everybody’s now saying that. I think it’s unfair to say that George isn’t Formula 1 material or isn’t a potential World Champion.
“Of course he is, but he’s a very different driver to Lewis – he’s very, very quick.”