Toto Wolff admits tensions between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will rise

Things have been friendly between Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell thus far.

Toto Wolff says it’s “natural” that tensions will increase between Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell once they’re given a better car.

So far in their first season as team-mates at Mercedes, Hamilton and Russell have enjoyed a friendly relationship, not clashing on or off track.

This is contrary to what many expected, with it being widely believed that Russell would be a bigger threat to Hamilton than Valtteri Bottas and the intra-team atmosphere wouldn’t be as harmonious as a result.

That hasn’t been the case though, and Wolff says that’s partly because both drivers have been focused on understanding the W13, which has been a largely disappointing car, not fast enough to challenge for wins.

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“I think the biggest opponent for George and Lewis was the car, not the team-mate or other drivers,” he told Italy.

“And this, to answer the question, has certainly been beneficial in some respects.”

The team principal says that, with the car needing to improve if the British pair want to fight for victories at the least, they’ve instead collaborated to achieve their common goal. 

“They used different solutions and setups, even a lot on some occasions, with the aim of exchanging impressions and useful information to get out of the situation we experienced,” he added.

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Their hard work has largely paid off already, with Russell claiming pole position and Hamilton finishing in P2 just ahead of his compatriot last time out in Hungary.

Based on the trajectory, given they were in the midfield battle at the start of the season, there’s a good chance that they will be challenging Red Bull and Ferrari before the end of the campaign.

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Whether they’re able to do so in the remaining races or will have to wait until 2023 or later, Wolff admits that when that time comes, things will most likely become less friendly between his two drivers.

He’s confident things wouldn’t get out of hand as they did between Hamilton and former team-mate Nico Rosberg at the start of the hybrid era though.

“When the objectives become races and championships, I will be able to tell you if the respect I see today between the two will remain a predominant factor,” he said.

“When playing for the highest stakes I think it’s natural to have a bit of tension, but if people basically respect and value each other, then it will never go beyond what is allowed.”