F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Mercedes have finally confirmed that George Russell will partner Lewis Hamilton in a mouth-watering all-British partnership next season. Russell, 23, will replace the outgoing Valtteri Bottas, with the Finnish driver jumping into the seat of countryman Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo.
Hamilton spoke warmly about his team-mate of five years, who he credited for helping him win the last four Drivers’ Championship titles, and Bottas himself said of Mercedes: “We have achieved some things that I will never forget.”
But Hamilton, 36, has also been full of kind words for his new team-mate Russell in the past 12-18 months in particular.
He first publicly praised Russell when the current Williams driver replaced him temporarily at Mercedes for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. Hamilton was ruled out of the race after testing positive for Covid-19.
Russell finished ninth after tyre problems cost him a podium finish, and that left the seven-time world champion very impressed.
“I think George did an amazing job, and I think everyone knows that,” he said.
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And in April this year, he offered his next team-mate support via Instagram after he accepted the blame following a collision with Bottas at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“Strength comes from vulnerability,” he said in response to a statement from Russell.
“If you don’t make the mistakes you will never learn the lesson. Respect for taking responsibility. On to the next one.”
Russell stunned everyone at last month’s Belgian Grand Prix when in an uncompetitive Williams car, he qualified second behind Max Verstappen, and ahead of Hamilton.
“A great job by George, that’s fantastic,” the latter said afterwards.
Before last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, Hamilton seemed to dismiss rumours he was unimpressed by his team’s intentions by saying he would welcome Russell.
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“I honestly think it will be good, I think George is an incredibly talented driver,” he said of his countryman’s then prospective, and now confirmed, move up to Mercedes.
“Probably the only highlight from last week (Spa) was his qualifying lap, it was amazing.
“He’s humble, I think he’s got a great approach. Naturally, being British I would imagine probably helps in terms of communication. He’s the future, he’s one of the members of the future of the sport.
“He’s already showing incredible driving so far and I’m sure he will continue to grow, so where better to do it than in a great team like this.”
Hamilton however, denied the presence of Russell would give him something to prove.
“Naturally, when you start with someone new it always takes time. Even when we have a new engineer or a new mechanic, it takes a moment for them to gel in,” Hamilton explained.
“But George has already been on the circuit with us, he’s already done a race with the team, he’s already been in the background whilst Valtteri and I have been working in the past. So I think he knows the environment well.
“It’s not like I have anything to prove. I’ve raced against some incredible drivers as team-mates, in my rookie year alongside Fernando (Alonso), so I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove.”
The veteran will be relishing the chance to test himself up against a hot new prospect and despite his obvious appreciation of Russell’s talents, will be eager to prove he’s still superior.
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