Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff acknowledges that the battle between Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell can often be “heated,” but they are aware of the ultimate team goal.
Russell entered the 2022 season full of grit, determination and a steely attitude having moved over from Williams, and he has used every bit of that to tackle a misbehaving W13.
Hamilton’s resilience was already well documented – there is a reason he is a seven-time champion – but Russell has out-qualified his compatriot six times this season, finishing ahead in race trim on seven occasions.
However, the 37-year-old has stopped experimenting on new parts on his side of the garage, and he has brought home three consecutive podiums in Canada, Britain and Austria, with the German side beginning to dispel their “porpoising” and bouncing problems.
This does not change the fact that, as evidenced in Spielberg, they cannot compete with the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari just yet – but the drivers are working on it together.
“They’re very good, I think they understand that enemy No 1 is a car that’s not performing like it should,” Wolff told Sky Sports.
“We need to get there but their personalities, their characters, their mindset is very special.
“Even if it can get heated because the competition is on and we allowed it, overarching [that] is always going to be the good character, nothing vicious, nothing underhand.
“That’s what’s happening between the two. I don’t hear any bad words between [Ferrari pairing Charles] Leclerc and [Carlos] Sainz either, even though they’re competitive with each other.
“I’m sure behind closed doors there will be discussions but that’s what you expect from racing drivers, you don’t want to have a lion in the car and a puppy outside.
“Their characters are good, their personalities are good, we all know what we need to achieve.”
The race pace of the Brackley-built Mercedes was plain for all to see in Silverstone when Hamilton challenged the two Ferraris for the victory, so there are signs that the end of Mercedes’ domination of the sport may be a shorter tenure than it might have appeared at the beginning of 2022.
“It’s actually good because we’re starting to see that we’re chipping away at the leaders which is really important,” explained Wolff.
“We find ourselves in a situation which we’ve always discussed, after eight consecutive titles that series is going to break and we want to make it a blip, not a longer cycle.”
However, Wolff does not believe that, were the circus to return to Monaco or Baku right now – where Mercedes suffered their worst bouncing yet – the phenomenon were to disappear despite the improvements in recent weeks.
“We just need to continue to grind away, I don’t think we’d be great in Baku and Monaco, it is still not completely solved but we’re getting there,” added the 50-year-old.
“Paul Ricard [the French Grand Prix] should be OK, it’s a smooth circuit a little bit like Silverstone with fast corners.
“It looks like we can have a good performance there.”
Russell ended fourth in Austria behind Hamilton in Styria, and the Silver Arrows collected the most points from the main race on Sunday as Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez both failed to finish.
Charles Leclerc won the race for Ferrari ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after an enticing battle between Red Bull and Ferrari last weekend.