Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher believes that Sir Lewis Hamilton may have been surprised by the form of new Mercedes team-mate George Russell, and the 24-year-old’s performance is something that “annoys” the seven-time champion.
Russell’s arrival at Mercedes coincided with new technical regulations that saw the re-introduction of ground effect aerodynamics, and Mercedes’ failure to adapt to the massive overhaul has left them with swindling results.
A P3 a piece for Russell and Hamilton remains their best result of the year, but the severity of their problems was exemplified by the 37-year-old’s horrible weekend in Imola, at the end of which he crossed the line in P13 and out of the points for the first time since 2013.
Compounding that is the fact that he has been out-raced in all of the last four grand prix by Russell, and this comes after five seasons together with Valtteri Bottas, during which he won four of his seven titles and out-qualified the Finn 72 times in 100 races.
Schumacher believes this will have come as a bit of a shock to the 37-year-old.
“Hamilton is finding out that Russell is of a very different calibre to Bottas,” he said.
“Russell always encourages the people in the team, just like Hamilton. He is fishing in the same pond as his team-mate now.”
Russell spent three years racing towards the back of the back of the grid with Williams, which could explain the 24-year-old’s acclimatisation to the midfield fight the Silver Arrows are in, but in any case, Schumacher divulges that it is irritating for a driver when their team-mate is beating them.
“We can see that Russell is just handling the situation better now and I’m sure that annoys Lewis. Lewis is obviously selfish, but we all are as drivers. I used to be too,” he explained.
“But Lewis is having a really hard time in the car and complaining a lot. He does that too when things are going well, but this time he has a hard time as well.”
Mathias Lauda, 2017 champion with Aston Martin in the GTE-AM category of the World Endurance Championship, agrees that Hamilton is struggling with the change of scenery caused by the new regulations.
“He’s really having a difficult time driving around in the midfield,” he added.
“It’s still early days, but Lewis has only had problems so far. For George Russell, on the other hand, everything is new for him in a factory team.
“Lewis lost the title on the last lap of the last race in 2021 and the motivation I guess is different now. And Russell seems fully motivated and is doing a good job.”
As the jewellery debate rages on, Lauda believes that Hamilton is spending too much of his energy fighting FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem on the matter, and suggests he should bend a knee and follow the directive.
“Why doesn’t he just put the jewellery back on right after the race? The FIA sets the rules and they have to be the same across a thousand racing series,” he stated.
Mercedes’ performance looked improved in Miami last weekend as they appeared to have a better handling of the “porpoising” issue, but after Russell finished fifth just ahead of Hamilton, they still have a lot of work to do to catch Red Bull and Ferrari.