‘Lewis would be that man’: George Russell told to up his game

Lewis Hamilton has come the closest to victory for Mercedes this season, most notably at the United States Grand Prix.

Whilst Mercedes have fallen short of claiming either the Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championship, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are still battling away to claim the honour of top Silver Arrow in the standings.

After 20 races, Russell currently leads Hamilton by 15 points, ahead of the penultimate round of the championship this weekend.

Whilst it’s a difficult gap to overhaul considering that the Germans aren’t claiming victories, Hamilton has been rapidly reducing the gap at recent rounds having been the dominant Mercedes in the second half of the season.

Russell undoubtedly performed better in the first half of the season when the car was at its weakest; however, since the porpoising issue has been ironed out, Hamilton has reigned supreme in the German garage.

READ: ‘I haven’t forgotten’: McLaren boss sends FIA demand as teams disagree

Despite his strong form, ex-F1 driver Jolyon Palmer thinks Russell will just about “close it out”, but that the seven-time World Champion is certainly “on top”.

“I imagine George will close it out, just by sheer numbers,” he said of the points gap on the F1 Nation podcast.

“There’s only two races left and if he just manages to keep this consistency, he’ll be there.

“But I think that doesn’t really tell the picture of the Mercedes story.

Article continues below

“I think George has been impressive, if he beats Lewis it will be an amazing achievement, but I do think the more the season’s gone on, the more Lewis looks like Lewis again.

“At the start of the year, there was a really odd moment where everyone was a bit perplexed [thinking] ‘is George Russell, gonna outdo Lewis Hamilton?’ and for the first six, seven races, it was looking that way.

“As the season’s gone on, I think Lewis has got on top and I think if they do have a title-challenging car next year, I still think it’d be Lewis that would be that man.”

Palmer added on his point that he thinks the 37-year-old would “be that man” to claim a title for Mercedes, based on the fact that when the W13 has been strong this season, Hamilton has been the one challenging for victory.

“So when the when the Mercedes car seems a bit absent through a weekend, it’s very close between the two, often George can be ahead,” Palmer explained.

“That’s certainly how it was at the start of the year.

“But every single time we’re looking at maybe Mercedes can win this race, as the race is unfolding, it’s only Lewis.

“That’s maybe just a little bit of experience still for George when the car’s at it’s best to maximise it. I’m sure he’ll improve as well next year but that’s where I still think you’ve got Hamilton ahead, even if the points don’t show it.”

1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill spoke in a similar vein to Palmer, with the Brit believing that Hamilton is certainly stronger in the “race itself” but that Russell is better over one lap.

Hill elaborated on the “incredible first season” Russell has had in the same team as the 103-time GP winner; however, he does think it would be different if it weren’t for Hamilton’s poor start to the year.

“When it comes to the race itself, Lewis is nearly always a faster driver over the distance,” Hill said on the podcast.

READ: Guenther Steiner lambasted for ‘useless criticism’ of Mick Schumacher

“I think that’s interesting.

“The younger drivers tend to be really quick over the one lap but the more experienced drivers, you look at Fernando [Alonso] in the races he’s incredible. He’s still creaking in qualifying, but they have this understanding of how to eek time out in a race.

“Quite often Lewis is still creeping ahead of George in the last few races. He’s [Russell] done an incredible first season with Lewis but in some ways you could say he was fortunate not to get Lewis on top form at the start of the season.”