Mercedes warned Hamilton-Russell partnership could ‘implode’

Mercedes have one of the strongest driver line-ups on the F1 grid in 2022.

Former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok is enthused by the prospect of the partnership of Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes, but suggests that Toto Wolff will want to avoid a repeat of Hamilton’s rivalry with Nico Rosberg.

Russell was signed to Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas after the Finn spent five years with the serial constructors’ champions, and he will line up alongside the 37-year-old whom he recently described as a “superhero.”

Hamilton and Nico Rosberg combined to win 51 races between 2014 and 2016 in what became a brutal and personal battle for the title in all of those three seasons, and Chandhok suggests that Wolff will not want a repeat of that, or indeed the Briton’s rocky relationship with Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007.

“The biggest question heading into the season is how the Lewis and George battle will unfold,” he told Express Sport.

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“We’ve got the biggest regulation change in 40 years, we’ve got Ferrari on the up, but the one I’m most excited to see unfold is Lewis versus George.

“I see so many similarities with Lewis versus Fernando [Alonso] in 2007 and obviously that imploded at McLaren. I think the difference in talking to Toto and Lewis and George at Brackley and Silverstone [is that] Toto’s very conscious about how that played out.

“He’s also fully aware that he doesn’t want a situation like they had with Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis, where they ended up with basically two teams within the same team and the atmosphere wasn’t great. I think Toto will have to work hard to manage that situation but it’s really exciting.”

Russell enters the Silver Arrows squad having spent three seasons with Williams during which he out-qualified team-mates Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi 57 times in 59 races.

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The 24-year-old also joined the Mercedes junior programme in 2017, and has been eagerly awaiting the chance to race for what has become one of the greatest team’s in the sport’s history.

Chandhok is intrigued by the dynamic between a determined upstart and the seven-time champion who is more motivated than ever having been cruelly denied his eighth last year.

“You’ve got a young guy who is so hungry,” he added.

“You talk to people in the factory and he’s there all the time in the simulator. He’s keen as mustard to get going.

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“He’s up against the driver who is statistically the greatest of all time and I would suspect Abu Dhabi has pulled the tail on the tiger a little bit. Lewis is going to come back hungrier than ever.

“I think that whole dynamic is going to be fascinating to watch and my gut feeling is that George will push Lewis much more than Valtteri did in recent times. I think we can all say that. How it actually unfolds, I don’t know,” he concluded.