Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher has commented on the harmony being developed at Mercedes between Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, noting the “gentle” approach they are taking towards each other.
Russell has been signed by Mercedes from Williams ahead of the 2022 season to replace the departing Valtteri Bottas, who has joined Alfa Romeo.
It comes off the back of a sensational result at last year’s bizarre Belgian Grand Prix, as well as his first points with the British team in Hungary the race before.
The 24-year-old filled in for Hamilton in Bahrain in 2020 when the 37-year-old tested positive for coronavirus, and he looked set to claim victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix having out-performed Bottas for much of the race before a botched pit stop and a slow puncture sent him down to ninth.
The pair seemed as though they had already developed a healthy relationship at the launch of the W13 last week, and this did not go unnoticed by Schumacher.
“I thought it was interesting how gentle the two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, were with each other,” he said, as quoted by Speedweek.
“The young Russell was very careful with his comments and emphasised he wants to learn a lot now.”
The German, however, reckons that some of vibes being radiated between the Britons are frontal, and Schumacher believes that Russell can immediately compete with the seven-time world champion.
“The tone was quite different when George replaced Lewis in Bahrain 2020 and drove alongside Valtteri Bottas,” he explained.
“But I’m convinced that internally it looks different, and I already believe he can beat Lewis from the start.”
With the 103-time race winner being joined by such a prodigious young talent at the quickest team on the grid, the 46-year-old sees this as a tremendous driver pairing.
“I think Mercedes have a super line-up now,” he added.
Bottas was out-qualified 72 times in 100 races by Hamilton, claiming 10 wins in five years with the Silver Arrows.
He was habitually forced into a support role for the 37-year-old, and Schumacher expressed his surprise that the Finn was not replaced earlier.
“There was always a push from us on Sky to change something there. I never quite understood why it took so long to replace Valtteri Bottas,” he stated.
“I think George Russell is an exceptional talent.
“Whether he will develop like Lewis Hamilton did remains to be seen. We also have to remember Lewis is 37 years old and Mercedes have to think about the future.”
Hamilton and Russell will take part in the first pre-season test in Barcelona this week, before a further three days of testing in Bahrain are followed by the much-anticipated first round of the season at the Sakhir International Circuit on 20 March.