Toto Wolff has said Mercedes had always given drivers “equal opportunities” to perform, and admitted George Russell will bring a new dynamic to the team this season.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas spent five seasons together in which the Briton was often the dominant force within the team, with the Finn usually playing second fiddle when push came to shove on several occasions – but mostly at points when his own title chances had fallen away each year.
Bottas also had to move aside for Hamilton on multiple occasions in 2021, when he and Max Verstappen were fighting tooth-and-nail for race victories throughout an enthralling year, with Bottas a distant 161.5 points behind his team-mate come season’s end.
Russell’s arrival is expected to give Hamilton a fresh challenge within the team, with the highly-rated youngster potentially coming in with a chance to prove his talent alongside the seven-time World Champion.
F1 2022. He's ready. Are you? 💪 pic.twitter.com/AHsM1JnCpx
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) February 20, 2022
There could be cause for friction if the two end up battling for the title, but Wolff said previously that Hamilton and Russell’s dynamic, at least to start with, will resemble the “wizard and the sorcerer’s apprentice” – but will still offer them equal chances to succeed.
Wolff admitted that “we don’t even know if we’re going to be in the hunt for a new title” this season, but when asked if the team will assign Hamilton and Russell number one and number two status respectively in 2022, the Mercedes boss was quick to shut that idea down.
“We never had a situation where [it was] one and two; they had equal opportunities and the same car,” Wolff told reporters, as quoted by Sky Sports.
“This year, the interesting situation is we have in George the up-and-coming star [in one seat], and undoubtedly the best Formula 1 driver ever in the other seat.
“So the dynamic is new and clearly it’s something that we will try to steer in a direction that has the most positive effect on developing the car and making us overall competitive.”
Hamilton returns this season after losing out on last season’s World Championship in controversial fashion, and the seven-time champion admitted that the off-season had been a difficult time for him – but retirement did not cross his mind.
The Mercedes CEO and team principal added that he feels his driver’s response will be a strong one at the start of the season.
“I think that adversity has always made him stronger, more resilient, and determined,” Wolff said. “This is the attitude I feel in him right now and, also, the mindset that I see in the team.”
Wolff discusses Hamilton v Russell dynamic
Toto Wolff has been discussing what he thinks the Hamilton v Russell dynamic will be this year.