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The one thing George Russell needs to beat Lewis Hamilton

If George Russell is to have any chance to beat Lewis Hamilton in his first Formula 1 season as a Mercedes driver, he will need a strong start to the year.

After three years of a driving a backmarker Williams car, George Russell got the call to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes alongside seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton starting in the 2022 Formula 1 season.

Even with so much uncertainty heading into the season about which drivers and teams will adapt best to the new rules and regulations, the former Mercedes junior driver is listed by WynnBET as the fourth favorite to win the 2022 world title at +700, behind only Hamilton at +155, reigning champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull at +185, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at +650.

As for his head-to-head battle with his teammate, Russell is listed as a +200 underdog. Hamilton is listed as the favorite at -300.

But there is one key thing that Russell needs to do to have a shot at beating Hamilton this year.

While there is far more than one thing that will go into beating Hamilton over an entire 23-race season, especially this one (after all, only eight drivers have ever done it throughout the first 15 years of Hamilton’s career), Russell absolutely needs a strong start to the season.

Amid the usual speculation of Mercedes having Hamilton as their number one driver, it has been said that Hamilton and Russell will have equal status within the team.

However, if Hamilton is able to create a gap over his younger British counterpart in the driver standings over the first few races, they will have no option but to prioritize him moving forward as he seeks to win a record-breaking eighth title.

This doesn’t just mean winning the first race, either. Bottas did that in 2019 and 2020 ahead of Hamilton in second and fourth place, respectively, but over the course of the remainder of those seasons, Hamilton won a total of 22 races while Bottas won four.

And interestingly enough, the winner of the season opener has actually placed second in the final standings five years in a row.

To even have a chance to beat Hamilton, Russell will need to prove that he is more than just “the future” at the Silver Arrows. He needs to go from “next” to “now” in the course of the season’s first several races to solidify himself as a true force to be reckoned with right off the bat.

There are doubts that he will be able to do that against Formula 1’s all-time most successful driver, and reasonably so. He needs to flip the narrative to the idea that he could perhaps by Mercedes’ number one driver, and that will be a lot easier said than done; saying it is hard enough.

It’s hard to imagine a discussion about Mercedes prioritizing the 24-year-old over the 37-year-old at any point this year, but that needs to be Russell’s goal.

He essentially needs to take a piece out of Charles Leclerc’s playbook from 2019. With Leclerc replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari alongside Sebastian Vettel, many assumed that Vettel, who had finished in second place in the driver standings behind Hamilton for two straight seasons, would continue to be the prioritized Ferrari driver.

But the young, hungry Leclerc proved his value early on, and Vettel could never catch up. Vettel’s uncharacteristic mistakes, coupled with Leclerc’s pace, led to the four-time world champion’s first defeat at the hands of a teammate since 2014.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled to get the 2022 Formula 1 season underway this Sunday, March 20 at Bahrain International Circuit. Tune in to ESPN at 11:00 a.m. ET for the live broadcast of the race, and start your free trial of FuboTV now!

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