‘This guy has woken up’: George Russell was shocked by Lewis Hamilton

George Russell finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton in seven of the first eight races of the 2022 season, as he built a points lead.

2022 was a year of frustration for Mercedes, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, as they had to get to grips with the shock of not being the best team on the grid.

Following so much domination in the hybrid era, it was a huge surprise to the team to have slipped so far behind both Red Bull and Ferrari, as a result of having developed a poor car.

In fairness to Russell, though, the former Williams driver performed miracles with the W13 at the start of the season, and remarkably finished above his seven-time World Champion team-mate at seven of the first eight races of 2022.

Things did then suddenly change for the Brit, as it appeared that he “woke up the beast” in Hamilton.

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Hamilton went on a five-race podium streak which saw him close the gap to his team-mate in the standings, before Russell fought back towards the end of the year.

Russell was, of course, the only Mercedes driver to claim a victory and a pole position in 2022, something which will fill him with confidence heading into next season.

Speaking on the Mercedes duo’s season, ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok spoke highly of Russell but added that Hamilton’s mid-season resurgence seemingly came as a shock to him.

“At the start of the year, it was looking quite good for George,” Chandhok told Sky Sports F1.

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“He was regularly out-qualifying Lewis, but I think he had a little bit of a wake-up call around that middle part of the year where Lewis suddenly lifted his game.

“And George went on a run of around eight, nine races I think without out-qualifying Lewis and I think at that point, he was going ‘whoa, this guy has woken up suddenly, you woke up the beast’.

“But to his credit, towards the end of the year, that weekend in Brazil obviously the standout, he came back and I’m fascinated to see how that goes.”

Looking ahead to 2023, Mercedes will be keen to recover from their abysmal 2022 campaign, which ended with them claiming third in the Constructors’ Championship.

Chandhok can’t wait to see what the Germans bring to the table next season, with the W14 set to once again be a new concept, after the team got the W13 so wrong.

“Mercedes, they got the concept wrong, they’ve been very open about it,” said Chandhok.

“For me, one of the most intriguing things when we all go to Bahrain for pre-season testing next year, is what does the 2023 Mercedes look like? Because out of the cars that have run this year, they’re the ones that will, I think, look quite different.

“The Red Bull will be an evolution, the Ferrari will be an evolution. But the Mercedes needs to be quite different to get it to work.

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“The drivers did a great job, I think, Lewis at the start of the year, I’m sure his motivation wasn’t there, and I can understand that.

“To me, and I said before in the season, it reminded me of Senna in ’93, this is a guy who is the number one driver of his generation, he arrives at the opening race and goes ‘gosh, I’ve got a car that’s only capable of qualifying on the third row of the grid’. Where’s the motivation? Fully understandable.

“Yet we go to Barcelona and they turned a bit of a corner and he rose to the challenge. You look at the season stats, I think from Canada onwards, 10-3 ahead of George in qualifying.”