Mercedes driver George Russell has ruled out a potential rivalry with team-mate Lewis Hamilton due to the “impact” it would have on the Silver Arrows, with some predicting that a strong Mercedes package could cause fireworks.
Russell adjusted to life brilliantly at the Germans last season, with the former Williams driver having been able to extract more performance from the woeful W13 than his team-mate across the majority of the season.
Some likened his time with Williams as a reason for this, with the Brit having been used to an underwhelming package, whilst Hamilton has been used to having a car that can challenge for titles.
Whilst the W13 was no backmarker by any means, it also wasn’t a car that could challenge for the title, resulting in plenty of development having been done throughout 2022.
Russell and Hamilton went on runs of beating one another last season, with the team having alternated every Grand Prix which driver tested the upgrades.
This caused some disruption to whichever driver was testing the parts, something which typically saw Russell and Hamilton yo-yo as the team’s highest finisher.
“We bought a number of test items to every single track,” Russell explained.
“They were the main development parts. They were always being alternated: one week was Lewis and one week as me, week in week out.
“Whenever there’s a development item, it does disrupt your race weekend.
“That’s why it’s always fair and that’s why the team always does one week with Lewis, one week it’s me.”
The same method will likely be used in the upcoming season, with Mercedes being hopeful of returning to the top after a year behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
Should the Silver Arrows have a car that can challenge for the title, then the likelihood is that both Hamilton and Russell will be in the mix.
Previously, Hamilton has been the only Mercedes driver who’s been able to fight for the title, with Valtteri Bottas having not performed consistently enough to put himself in title contention.
Russell proved in 2022 that he can string together consistent results, with the 24-year-old having finished in the top-five in 18 races last season.
With that in mind, some are expecting Russell’s and Hamilton’s relationship to turn sour should they both be in title contention, similar to what happened between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Russell, though, has ruled out a rivalry developing with his team-mate, after knowing it’s not good for the team.
“If our relationship starts to break up, it’s going to have an impact on the team, and ultimately it’s going to go full circle and affect us as well,” Russell said.
He admits that his relationship with Hamilton will “naturally” change should they both be in title contention this year, with maintaining “respect” for one another being a must.
“Naturally if you are fighting for one-twos, there will be a slightly different dynamic and that’s only natural,” he told the media before Christmas.
“We’ll need to give each other respect.
“I think the thing we have going for us is the fact that we are at very different stages of our career.
“I think we gave each other respect.
“We recognise the importance of that within the whole team.”