Lewis Hamilton did not mince his words when asked whether transitioning to a new partnership with George Russell has been ‘tough’ this season. Instead, the Brit heaped praise on his Mercedes team-mate and backed Toto Wolff’s decision to bring him in as Valtteri Bottas’ replacement.
Bottas racked up 10 wins over five seasons as a Silver Arrow, although he broadly struggled to find a way out of Hamilton’s shadow. Russell has wasted no time in challenging the pecking order since his move from Williams, however, opening up a healthy gap between himself and the seven-time world champion.
Despite Hamilton’s recent upturn in results, Russell still sits 19 points ahead in the Drivers’ Championship. Furthermore, he has finished in the top five of every Grand Prix this season, with the exception of Silverstone where he suffered an unfortunate DNF.
When quizzed on the obvious change in the Mercedes garage and whether it had been ‘tough’ to navigate, Hamilton was quick to back his new partner in crime.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been tough. It’s been pleasant,” insisted the 37-year-old. “We’ve worked together incredibly well. George has had a positive impact on the work environment. It’s generally been a real pleasure to work with him.
“It’s been great to see his success. He’s done such a great job. He’s got great points for the team, and he’s continuing to improve. He’s going to continue to improve for a long time.”
Eyebrows were raised when Wolff took the decision to swap out Bottas for Russell due to the success that Mercedes had enjoyed, both on team and individual levels, during the Finn’s partnership with Hamilton. Despite the close bond that the duo had built up over five seasons with the Silver Arrows, the Brit insisted that changing things up by giving Russell a chance was the right thing to do.
“I definitely see that [Russell] has got so much potential in him, and he’s in the right place for it as well,” he added. “I really think that, whether or not I’m here, he has all the qualities to help take this team forwards in the future and lead them to success. I think it’s been the right choice for the team, and I hope I can be a little bit of a part of helping him to progress.”
Things are looking up for Mercedes after a time-consuming battle with porpoising marred the start of 2022. While they may be too far off the pace to challenge for the top prizes, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has tipped them to come on strong in France this weekend and solidify themselves as contenders for the rest of the season.
“We’ll expect them to be quick in [Paul] Ricard,” he said. “They are showing flashes of being there or thereabouts. The last two races have been pretty decent for them and there’s been no sign I think of any porpoising at all, so they seem to be slowly bringing themselves back into the game.”