George Russell has impressed thus far in his first season with Mercedes; he currently leads Sir Lewis Hamilton in the standings and has generally outperformed his team-mate.
Specifically, the 24-year-old sits fourth in the Drivers’ Standings on 158 points, while Hamilton is in P6 on 12 fewer points.
Many in the paddock, including Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, have speculated that Russell has fared better than his veteran team-mate because he is used to having to drive a difficult car, after racing with Williams towards the back of the grid for three years.
Critics of Hamilton, meanwhile, have used the fact that the young Briton has outperformed him to discredit the 37-year-old and the multiple championships he won with the Silver Arrows during F1’s turbo-hybrid era.
At this point in the season, it’s difficult to conclusively say why Russell has been able to outperform Hamilton and determine just how much damage the 2022 season will do to his legacy.
How could George Russell force Lewis Hamilton out?
The seven-time world champion had a string of strong results in the run-up to the Summer break, allowing him to close up to his team-mate in the standings.
If Hamilton can continue this form, he has a great chance of finishing ahead of Russell in the championship.
However, as long as Russell is hot on Hamilton’s heels, Mercedes will undoubtedly question why they are paying him eight times more than his younger team-mate (Hamilton reportedly earns $40 million per year, while the 24-year-old receives $5 million.)
With Hamilton likely to oppose accepting a pay cut – and potentially looking to leave the Brackley-based team due to his team-mate more often than not giving him a run for his money on the circuit – it’s clear that Russell could very easily force him to leave Mercedes.
Is Ferrari Lewis Hamilton’s best option?
Should the Briton decide to leave the Silver Arrows after racing with the team for almost a decade, Ferrari would almost certainly be his best option.
The Scuderia and Red Bull have had the fastest packages in 2022, and it’s unlikely that any other team, with the exception of Mercedes, will be able to challenge them in the next couple of years.
Red Bull can be ruled out as a possible destination for Hamilton, as the team is built around Max Verstappen and the racing outfit’s senior management have clashed with the serial champion in recent years.
Therefore, Ferrari would be the only realistic option. And, although they have an extremely strong driver pairing in Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, it’s hard to imagine they would turn away Hamilton, especially as both of their drivers have made costly mistakes this year.
Furthermore, Hamilton has previously admitted to holding talks with Ferrari, but said a deal was never reached due to their schedules not aligning.
“We talked on occasion, but we didn’t go beyond understanding what options were on the table and they weren’t the right ones,” he said in 2020 when asked if Ferrari had ever tried to lure him.
“Our positions have never aligned. I think timing matters and things happen in the end for a reason.
“In recent seasons, my contract always expired in years different from those of all the other drivers. In the end, that’s how it went,” he concluded.