‘Future world champion’ Russell cautioned about beating Hamilton until Mercedes have stronger car

George Russell has been in fine form since his arrival at Mercedes at the beginning of 2022.

Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard is certainly a fan of George Russell having given him a lot of praise so far in 2022, and he now emphasises that his compatriot is world championship material.

Russell has performed admirably alongside team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton since making the switch from Williams over the winter, out-performing him in seven of the opening nine rounds of the year.

The 24-year-old has stood on the podium three times, and both drivers have had to show tremendous fortitude to overcome a poorly riding and underperforming W13 car.

Hamilton finally had reason to smile this year when he finished third in Canada last weekend but, in general this year, Russell seems to have been the one to find more of a rhythm with the erratic machine.

A possible explanation for that could be the fact that Russell spent three years racing towards the back of the grid with Williams, while Hamilton had been in title contention in all of the previous eight years.

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The 37-year-old claimed the title in six of them, so there is no doubting that being a second off the pace of the front runners is unfamiliar territory for the seven-time champion, and a difficult thing to get used to.

Nevertheless, Coulthard has seen enough in the younger Briton this season to tell him that he is a champion in waiting.

“I think George is a future world champion,” he told RacingNews365.com.

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“I think he’s a fantastic driver and I think he’s earned that place in the team, but we won’t truly know how he compares to Lewis until they have a winning car again.

“Because right now, this is the best car that George has ever driven, relative to where the fastest car is, and this is not the best car that Lewis has driven.”

The 13-time race winner with Williams and McLaren feels that the contrasting careers in the build-up to their partnership has been a key factor in the disparity we have sometimes seen between Hamilton and Russell.

When they end up competing for victories though, it could be a different story.

“It’s two different mindsets, two different phases of their careers. And that’s why right now you go, ‘Oh, George’s outperforming Lewis,’” added Coulthard.

“Well, let’s wait and see when they qualify first and second in whatever order it happens to be just how the running order is then.”

The Briton theorised that we simply will not know for sure if Russell can drive a title-contending car to the limit consistently until he is given one.

“I think in my mind’s eye, and it remains to be seen, as in when Mercedes delivers a World Championship car again, but the exceptional drivers – your Lewis’, your Maxs’, go back in time, your Schumachers, your Hakkinens, and the like, when the faster the car is, the more difficult it is to drive,” he said.

“That may seem counterintuitive if you’ve not done anything more than a better car thing, but they all have the same tyres. 

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“So, if you’re in whatever the slowest car is, and Montreal was a bad example, because the Ferrari was on the back row. 

“But it’s normally that a Williams or a Haas or whoever it happens to be at the moment, you’d think, ‘Oh, it must be really difficult because it’s not as quick.’

“Actually, the further you were away from the peak of downforce, then everything just isn’t running as close to its limit, so the tyres aren’t running as close to the limit. 

“So, what tends to happen is when you have a really fast car, exceptional drivers get more out of it, and when you have an average car, it becomes easier for everyone to get something out of it because it’s an average car.”

Russell sits fourth in the Drivers’ Standings currently, two positions and 34 points clear of Hamilton.