‘It has been respectable’: Russell opens up on intra-team battle with Hamilton

George Russell leads Sir Lewis Hamilton by nine points in the Drivers' Standings after three rounds of the 2022 Formula 1 season.

Mercedes driver George Russell is finding out first-hand what has made team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton a seven-time champion.

Russell joined the Silver Arrows from Williams ahead of the 2022 season to replace Alfa Romeo-bound Valtteri Bottas, and was out-qualified by a second by his compartiot at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix due to a mistake on his final run.

He recovered to finish fourth behind Hamilton after a double reliability failure for Red Bull, and comprehensively out-paced the 37-year-old in Jeddah while he struggled all weekend with handling troubles.

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A Safety Car then helped the 24-year-old to get ahead of Hamilton in Australia, but he had his team-mate running right behind him during the closing stages, leading the former McLaren driver to tell his team that they had placed him in a “really difficult position” as he started to struggle with engine cooling while caught behind Russell.

The younger Silver Arrows driver held on for his first podium with the Brackley squad, but he certainly felt the pressure from behind.

“He kept me on my toes for sure, he doesn’t give up that guy,” said Russell.

“He was pushing until the end and I knew that I needed to keep on pushing if I wanted a shot at keeping him behind.”

Hamilton previously joked that he enjoyed having a “younger” team-mate in Russell after five years working with the “old soul” Bottas.

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Russell previously affirmed that he has “no interest” in fighting his compatriot for fifth place, reiterating that they need to work together to help the eight-time constructors’ champions recover back up the order having fallen well behind Red Bull and Ferrari.

Relationship aside, Russell says he is getting on “fine” up against the 103-time race winner, but maintains that there are improvements to be made.

“I think there is always more to come, always more to improve from both of us but it has been respectable but I need to keep improving,” he explained.

Indeed, former F1 driver Marc Surer stressed ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend that Russell has “a long way to go” to beat Hamilton, but praised the thus far impressive performances that have placed the 24-year-old second in the Drivers’ Standings.

“George Russell is doing a tremendous job,” he told Formula1News.co.uk.

“He [is] new in the team if you don’t count Bahrain one year ago, he is immediately there. He was already in testing making a good impression and now also in the races.

“It’s much too early but he is doing a tremendous job but to beat Hamilton there is a long way to go.”

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Mercedes’ two podiums this year have come as a result of rotten reliability for Red Bull, but they do not conceal the fact that the Silver Arrows are significantly behind their competition at present.

The former Williams driver asserted that the team can solve “99 percent” of their problems if they can get rid of the “porpoising” that has been affecting them since the arrival of the new technical regulations.