‘Lewis would have preferred Bottas to stay at Mercedes’

George Russell has joined Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes ahead of the 2022 season after the departure of Valtteri Bottas.

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz believes that George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton will work cohesively at Mercedes in the upcoming season, but by no means thinks Russell will lay down for his team-mate.

Russell has been signed to Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas, and will partner seven-time champion Hamilton having arrived from Williams.

With 103 wins under his belt and an even stronger motivation after his contentious late defeat to Max Verstappen last year, the 37-year-old will be a tough man to beat, but Kravitz has no doubt that Russell will not back down from the challenge.

“He will push Hamilton but when he’s told to by the team, he will also submit as a second driver,” he told Sky Sports.

Bottas often found himself playing a fairly submissive role to Hamilton as the pair secured 21 1-2 finishes in five years, and the 47-year-old predicts that Mercedes will have no problem placing Russell into the same position should his compatriot end up holding a dominant lead over him in the standings.

“I think the dynamic is absolutely fine. Yes, Lewis would have preferred Valtteri Bottas to stay because they had an established relationship with good respect, and Lewis didn’t have to worry about the other driver being quicker than him too often,” he explained.

“That might not be the case with Russell, but Mercedes will make sure nothing gets in the way of Lewis going for the championship if he is way ahead.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff took the same stance as Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto regarding the opportunities his driver will have, and insists that the Silver Arrows will not be adopting a one and two driver policy.

“We never had a situation where [it was] one and two; they had equal opportunities and the same car,” he said, quoted by Sky Sports.

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“This year, the interesting situation is we have in George the up-and-coming star [in one seat], and undoubtedly the best Formula 1 driver ever in the other seat.

“So the dynamic is new and clearly it’s something that we will try to steer in a direction that has the most positive effect on developing the car and making us overall competitive.”

Russell maintains that his mentality has not changed now that he has joined Mercedes compared to his Williams days fighting at the back of the grid.

“I think it’s quite incredible how racing drivers’ minds work, that when you put the helmet on, it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for the win, or – for me for the last few years – fighting at the back of grid,” he told RacingNews365.

“You always go in with the exact same mindset.”

Hamilton claimed victory in three of the last four races of last season before being cruelly denied his eighth world championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and has vowed to come back stronger this season.

“If you think the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year,” he told reporters.