‘I am not criticising George Russell’: F1 legend defends Lewis Hamilton

Jean Alesi has sympathised with the teammates of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, appreciating the difficult role they have.

It is always difficult for a new driver coming into a team, especially when your new teammate has won multiple world championships.

George Russell seemed to be a exception to this trend, blowing away teammate Lewis Hamilton in the early months of the season despite Mercedes’ struggles, picking up podiums and finishing in the top six almost every week.

In the second half of the season however Russell has started to seem his performances step into the shadow of his teammates, with Hamilton being reborn in recent weeks, showing that his dip in form was not going to last forever.

F1 legend Jean Alesi has outlined how difficult it can be to be the teammate of a superstar, who can always find another gear of performance when it gets tough.

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“When you’re dealing with a driver so adept at managing the peak of his own performance, life for his teammate becomes very difficult,” explained the Frenchman.

“I am thinking of [Sergio] Perez at Red Bull, of course. I am thinking of Russell, compared to Hamilton.”

It was revealed by Hamilton that while the Silver Arrows were struggling with their car, he was tinkering with his W13 and running experiments on his set up, to try and work out what is best for the future, while Russell instead was trying to extract the maximum out what he had.

This has resulted in Hamilton’s performance increasing to the level we all know it can over the second half of the season, while Russell is beginning to struggle slightly.

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“The young Englishman is making his debut in the Mercedes. He’s been forcing it since the first races despite having an unsuccessful car. Unlike Lewis, who waited before committing himself fully given the car’s initial shortcomings,” said Alesi.

“But then [Hamilton] expressed an intact quality, complicating the path of his partner.

“I am not criticising Russell. I am saying even a talented young man can struggle in the confrontation with and older but experience and intact champion.”

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It is usually the way that it goes with a young driver, with naivety understandably creeping into their decision making, but it is not always the case.

Fernando Alonso is still performing at a very high level at the age of 41, but his teammate Esteban Ocon is still above him in the championship, after struggling less with the car and some impressive drives in 2022, which Alesi has credited.

Russell will be hoping that 2022 has been a learning curve, and the 2023 Mercedes car will not take much of an adaptation period like the W13.