George Russell ‘stung’ Lewis Hamilton as he publicly dismisses his excuse

George Russell out-qualified Lewis Hamilton by almost four-tenths of a second at the recent Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Sky Sports F1 reporter Craig Slater has warned Mercedes’ George Russell to “assert himself” against seven-time World Champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton, something the 25-year-old has started to do ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

Russell has had a very mixed start to the 2023 F1 season, after finishing comfortably behind Hamilton in Bahrain, before having significantly better pace than the 38-year-old in Saudi Arabia.

Russell’s pace in Jeddah was so good in fact, that his best time in qualifying was almost four-tenths faster than Hamilton’s, something the 103-time race winner has put down to set-up.

The Stevenage-born driver praised Russell’s set-up and how he would’ve much preferred it for qualifying and the race, whilst Russell rejected the idea that his pace was only because his W14 was set-up correctly.

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Russel for the first team ensured that he was “standing his ground”, after discussing the recent round during his media duties in Melbourne.

The Mercedes duo fighting against each other is “a big subplot” for the 2023 season and is perhaps about to go up a notch following their comments at the Albert Park Circuit.

Russell, of course, became just the third team-mate of Hamilton’s to finish above him in the Drivers’ Championship last season, something which if he can replicate will perhaps see a shift in the balance at Mercedes.

Slater believes that Russell needs to remain respectful when discussing Hamilton but that he must admit when his performances aren’t just due to a better set-up, something the reporter states “he has to say”.

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“This is a big subplot this year because Lewis Hamilton was outscored by George Russell last year, and that has only happened twice before in his career by a team-mate,” Slater said on Sky Sports.

“Jenson Button did it once and Nico Rosberg did it in slightly fortuitous circumstances where Lewis had lots of reliability problems.

“But last weekend in qualifying, George Russell outqualified Lewis Hamilton by four tenths of a second – that’s a big gap between team-mates. Maybe it stung Lewis a little bit.

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“But George Russell today is standing his ground, resisting the notion that it was only the setup.

“And I think to be fair to him, he has to say that – he can’t just admit that if everything was equal, Lewis Hamilton would be beating him week in, week out.

“He has got to assert himself without being disrespectful to Lewis in any way, which I don’t think this is.”