Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Lewis Hamilton’s post-Abu Dhabi social media silence continues – but it is expected that the Mercedes driver will return to Formula One in 2022 despite going to ground. And when he does he will be joined by a new team-mate in the exciting George Russell.
The Mercedes junior driver gets his chance for the Silver Arrows after three steady years with Williams and will hope to provide a two-pronged attack to combat Red Bull which Valtteri Bottas, who moves to Alfa Romeo, couldn’t do so – at least on a consistent basis.
Hamilton is certainly aware of how Russell’s potential and back in September, the seven-time world champion welcomed his fellow Briton to Mercedes with open arms.
He told Sky Sports: “The young talent coming through is so great for the sport and is the future of the sport. New fresh blood in our team is going to be great because obviously I’m the oldie there.
“That definitely will energise the whole team knowing that they have a new youngster coming through who is super hungry, driven and he pushing the team forwards.
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“I just know he’s going to continue to get stronger, even in these next nine races [of 2021], and next year he’ll be bringing the heat for sure.”
Hamilton had also talked up Russell’s prospects after watching the Williams man step into his car for the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, when the 36-year-old was absent due to coronavirus.
Russell ended P9 after qualifying a blistering second place but had been on course for a maiden race victory had it not been for a pitstop error from the Mercedes team and then a slow puncture.
Hamilton said after: “Really impressed with his race craft and how he’s growing. He really is the future.
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“There are several drivers that are the future of this sport but he’s one of them and I’m really excited to see his progression. I have no doubt that he has the potential to be a future champion.”
Hamilton will now of course get to witness, and even influence, his compatriot’s progression first-hand in the Mercedes garage across the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
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But there is no doubt that as much as Russell’s is Mercedes’ future and their main championship challenger once the 36-year-old calls it a day, Hamilton’s primary focus in the new season will be beating Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver took Hamilton’s F1 crown off him in 2021, in controversial circumstances, and Hamilton will be out to take it back. He showed last season he is still at the peak of his powers.
But the challenge of beating Verstappen will be made harder for Hamilton if Russell is taking victories and podiums off him, even if there is a tactical advantage to having two Mercedes operating at a similar pace at the front of the grid.
Verstappen himself has acknowledged the challenges Hamilton may face with Russell alongside him, saying four months ago: “If he joins then for sure he will make it very difficult for Lewis. He jumped into the car in Bahrain and basically from Lap 1 he was making it very difficult for Valtteri.
“So you can only imagine the more experience you gain in that car and the more you get accustomed within the team, naturally you’re going to get faster. I do expect him to do very well if he gets that seat.”
Hamilton added: “I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to prove. I’m in a different place in my life, I’m excited to see the youngsters coming through. It’s not that I want to lose to a youngster, naturally!”
The F1 veteran, entering his 10th season with Mercedes, will of course be supportive of Russell’s cause at his new team – but he’ll perhaps be hoping that he delays his challenge for the Drivers’ Championship just another year or two.
After all, Hamilton has revenge to get on Verstappen. His prospects of snatching back that title may not be helped if Russell immediately proves he’s not just F1’s future, as Hamilton so confidently thinks he is, but also its present.
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