Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher has warned that Sir Lewis Hamilton could soon find himself playing second fiddle to George Russell at Mercedes.
Hamilton has been comprehensively out-performed in two of the opening four rounds of the 2022 season by new team-mate Russell, and the 24-year-old’s superb display in Imola saw him finish P4, while his compatriot languished down in 13th.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff indicated that the car is easier to drive in clear air – as Russell was for much of the race – than it is to drive in traffic after Hamilton found himself caught up behind Pierre Gasly for over 40 laps.
The fact that the British drivers were having to lift off to mitigate “porpoising” did little to help, and it is clear that the Silver Arrows have an erratic car that is troublesome to get into an operating window under the new technical regulations.
This does not change the fundamental fact that Russell has generally been the quicker driver this season, and Schumacher reveals Hamilton will be wondering why he has that deficit.
“He has to ask himself why George Russell is so much faster than him. A 13th place is of course not Hamilton’s ambition,” he wrote in his Sky Sports column.
Continuing, Schumacher warned that Hamilton could quickly find himself becoming Mercedes’ number two driver in 2022.
“He has to admit to himself that Russell is the better driver right now. If this continues in the next few weeks, it will be exciting in the team. There could be changes in the ranking.”
The reintroduction of the ground effect aerodynamic is something that all the drivers have needed to acclimatise to, but Russell has more experience – certainly recently – of driving in the midfield, so this is something the 37-year-old, in the eyes of the former Jordan and Williams driver, will just have to adapt to.
“I’m far from saying Hamilton has missed the boat on ending his career,” he added.
“Lewis is still one of the best drivers in the field, that is clear.
“However, the new concepts require drivers to change a bit. Hamilton is not so used to it. Russell, on the other hand, is a young driver. They obviously cope better with it.”
Hamilton fell to seventh in the Drivers’ Standings behind Lando Norris after the 22-year-old earned a superb podium finish at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, and Mercedes have now been leapfrogged by Red Bull for P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.