Senior Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has said he believes George Russell will prove to be a bigger challenge for Sir Lewis Hamilton than Valtteri Bottas was.
And, interestingly, the Austrian said he expects Russell to give Hamilton a harder time at Mercedes for a number of reasons, including the fact that he is “also English.”
It was announced last year that Russell would be replacing Bottas at Mercedes in 2022, after demonstrating his speed, particularly in qualifying, at Williams.
The Finn will drive for Alfa Romeo this year, partnering F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou at the team.
The paddock has high expectations of Russell, and many people are expecting him to be closer to Hamilton in equal machinery than Bottas was.
Dr Marko has said he believes the 23-year-old will undoubtedly be a “bigger challenge” for Hamilton, partly because he’s the same nationality as the seven-time world champion.
“Russell will certainly be a bigger challenge for Hamilton. Just rhetorically and politically, because he’s also English,” Dr Marko said in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS).
Continuing, the Austrian said that while Russell’s qualifying pace is impressive, he is unsure if he will be able to match Hamilton’s race pace.
“He is an incredibly fast driver in qualifying. In the race, however, the gap to Latifi was no longer so great. Russell has to prove himself first,” he said.
Russell scored his first points in Formula 1 when he filled in for Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, after the serial champion tested positive for COVID-19.
The young Brit looked set to win his maiden race with Mercedes on two occasions, but the combination of a botched pit-stop and a late slow puncture meant he finished the race in P9.
He scored his first points with Williams in 2021, and took his first F1 podium at the farcical Belgian Grand Prix last year.