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Mika Hakkinen is speaking from “experience” when he suggests that Mercedes are in for a long season with George Russell teaming up with Lewis Hamilton this year. Valtteri Bottas has been replaced at Mercedes this season by Russell with the young Briton stepping up from Williams.
Russell has long been touted for a seat with Mercedes after joining the junior programme before he entered F1. Mercedes agreed to Williams taking on Russell for his first few years in F1 to mature into the sport.
And the decision was made last year to promote Russell to drive alongside Hamilton for the 2022 season. He will be Hamilton’s third different team-mate at Mercedes with the two previous producing different results entirely.
Nico Rosberg and Hamilton had a strong relationship before they teamed up at Mercedes, but that partnership quickly deteriorated in the four years they were driving together. Toto Wolff had to step in on a number of occasions as both drivers were guilty of overstepping the mark before Rosberg called quits on his career after winning the 2016 F1 world title.
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Bottas came in to replace Rosberg and it was a much more harmonious relationship at Mercedes. Some have speculated that was partly because Hamilton wasn’t pushed as hard by Bottas than Rosberg.
With Russell now on board, Wolff has a new dynamic to manage. But Hakkinen believes Hamilton will soon become “irritated” with Russell pushing to impress.
“I believe and I know from my experience that Lewis is relatively sensitive,” said Hakkinen in a video for the Unibet YouTube channel. “He is a sensitive person. When Valtteri was Lewis’ team-mate, the teamwork was perfect.
“Now, the support he’s going to get from Russell…The teamwork could be lost. That’s where Lewis can become irritated.”
Speaking ahead of the new season, Russell made it clear that he was hoping to be more of a team-mate to Hamilton than a rival.
“We are at different stages of our careers,” he said. “Lewis has nothing to prove, he is statistically the greatest driver of all time, I think he wants me to succeed and he truly wants to help me.
“It’s incredibly exciting that I find myself in a win-win scenario. You’re going up against the greatest of all time who has beaten everybody. I can only learn from him.”
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