The quality and potential of George Russell has never been in doubt ever since the Brit was given a Mercedes cameo back in 2020 in Sakhir.
Standing in for Lewis Hamilton, who was suffering with COVID-19, Russell was clearly the most impressive driver on track and would have picked up the first win of his career, had it not been for a botched pit stop where he was given a mixed tyre set.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had been keeping an eye on the Brit during his three years with Williams and decided that 2022 was the year in which he would call up Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas with the Silver Arrows.
The team got off to a disastrous start under the major regulation changes that came into effect at the start of the year, battling with a severe porpoising problem as a result of the W13’s aerodynamic design.
Despite being nowhere near the levels of Ferrari and Red Bull for the majority of the season, Russell was almost an ever-present in the top five come race weekends and even picked up Mercedes only win of the season in Brazil.
After eventually finishing the season in an impressive fourth place, ahead of Carlos Sainz and his teammate Lewis Hamilton, Russell has been praised for his start to life with the Silver Arrows.
While the 24-year-old has agreed that his first season with Mercedes was a successful one, Russell has claimed that he is expecting Hamilton to be back to his best this year, putting his 2022 failures down to a dip in form.
“Nine times out of ten if you finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton, you’re probably going to be world champion,” he said via The Mirror.
“We’ve all had our own difficulties. I’ve no doubt he’s going to be probably back to his normal level next year.
“I think he had a very difficult start to the season when things weren’t really going smoothly for him, and they were probably going a bit smoother for me. That kind of swung around a little bit [in] the second half of the season, but looking back on the season as a whole, it probably balanced itself out.”
Hamilton will be concerned about his chances of winning a record breaking eighth world championship before he retires after seeing how well Russell can perform with Mercedes.
No matter how fast Mercedes can make the W14, if Hamilton is unable to consistently beat his teammate, he will be unable to retire as a world champion, as he admits he dreams of doing,