Lewis Hamilton has vowed to support George Russell when they become teammates at Mercedes for the 2022 season, even though he expects him “to want to show up and win”.
Hamilton has been partnered by Valtteri Bottas since 2017 but the Finn will move on to Alfa Romeo next year, with former GP3 and Formula 2 champion Russell gaining promotion to the Silver Arrows after three campaigns with Williams.
Russell, 23, has previously described Hamilton, 36, as the “greatest of all time”, though rivals have tipped the youngster to make life “very difficult” for the seven-time World Champion – who is bidding for a record-breaking eighth title this season.
“I remember when I went up against Alonso”
Hamilton compared the dynamic to the start of his Formula 1 career, when he made his debut with McLaren after claiming the GP2 Series (now Formula 2) title and was paired with two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.
While he has described a “nice balance” between himself and Russell as things stand, Hamilton is aware that the youngster will want to beat him from the outset.
“You’ve seen George is hugely respectful,” Hamilton told the BBC.
“He’s a super-talented young man and I think there’s a huge amount of respect already going in and we’ve got a nice balance at the moment.
“But he’s going to want to be quick, he’s going to want to show up and win, and do all those things that you do when you enter a new role.
“I remember in 2007 when I went up against Alonso. Of course, I wanted to beat him at the first race, so I appreciate and expect George to have that mentality, otherwise he’s not a winner, you know?”
Hamilton wants Russell to become champion
However, Hamilton pointed out that he is now “in a different place” and is keen to have a “positive influence” on Russell’s development.
“I really want to see him succeed,” Hamilton commented.
“There’s going to be a point where I don’t continue in this sport and, you know, he’s my teammate and he’s gonna be the next Brit that I want to see win a World Championship.
“While we are going to be competing and I want to win on track, I really hope I can have a positive influence on how he conducts himself within the team.”
Regarding specifically where he might have an influence on Russell, Hamilton said: “Whether it’s the time he commits to engineering or how he churns through the data or even just how he drives on track.”
Russell has already raced for Mercedes in Formula 1, replacing the unwell Hamilton at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix. Having qualified second, just behind Bottas, he challenged for victory before a pit-stop mix-up and a puncture put him out of the running.
Does Lewis Hamilton’s recent run of form against Max Verstappen now make him the favourite to claim the title? F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discuss this and more in the latest episode of the RacingNews365 podcast!