Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2021

Verstappen: Hamilton will find Russell “very difficult” as a team mate

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton’s championship rival expects he will have a harder fight on his hands if George Russell joins Mercedes as his team mate next year.

Max Verstappen said he was impressed by Russell’s performance at Spa, where the pair shared the front row of the grid, and at Sakhir last year, where Russell came close to winning while substituting for Hamilton.

“If he joins for sure, he will make it very difficult for Lewis,” said Verstappen. Russell is widely expected to be confirmed as Valtteri Bottas’ replacement for the 2022 F1 season.

Verstappen said Russell “jumped into the car in Bahrain and basically was already, from lap one, making it very difficult for Valtteri. So you can only imagine; the more experience you gain in that car and the more you get accustomed to it within the team, naturally, you’re going to be becoming faster.”

The Red Bull driver said his own experience of moving into the Red Bull team alongside Daniel Ricciardo showed how much scope for improvement Russell has.

“When you do your first race, you are guided by the team about set-up direction because you just don’t know what what to do really, initially, with the car.

“I remember my first race at Red Bull the thing I said was we’ll just follow a bit what Daniel is doing because I have no clue about how this car needs to go quick. Because even though, of course, F1 cars look pretty similar, the way of setting them up can be very different.”

Verstappen said he is “very confident” in Russell’s ability. “Already what you could see, the performance he did in in Spa was really good. Of course, they set up the car a bit more for wet conditions but nevertheless, to do that in a Williams was very impressive. So I do expect him to do very well if he gets that.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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41 comments on “Verstappen: Hamilton will find Russell “very difficult” as a team mate”

  1. Have to agree with Max on this one. I think it’s entirely expected for Russell to be immediately competitive with Lewis once he gets into that Mercedes. Sure, he’ll make some mistakes (much like Max did when he joined Red Bull, or Leclerc has done at Ferrari), but the speed and drive will be there.

    Lets not forget that contrary to Max and Charles, George already has 3 years of experience once he joins, rather than 1 (and 4 races, like Max)

    1. Absolutely, it’s what I expect as well.

    2. Max is just stirring up everything, putting the team off balance already. That’s clever actually. But in the long run Max knows that with a slight car advantage Mr. Saturday will create problems for RBR. Lewis will definitely be a history from next year.

      I am really eager to see the battle between Lando, George, Max and Charles.

  2. I know Sakhir was only one race, but Russell will definitely give Hamilton something to worry about in qualifying, but racetrim Russell opened up a 7 second lead before Bottas started to gain again in the 2nd stint until well, the craziness occurred. Hamilton is typically quicker than Bottas in races. We’ll see, but the last thing rivals need is for two Mercedes drivers to be at similar levels and continuing to push each other and the team. Hamilton and Rosberg’s rivalry pushed the team to new heights in 2016 and won every race except Spain. I still believe that Rosberg’s rivalry made Hamilton better in all aspects, and that without it, maybe Hamilton would be different now.

    1. @krichelle Mercedes didn’t win Malaysia that season either, but I thoroughly share your view.

    2. The thing we’ll never know regarding Bottas closing the gap to Russell was how much life he was taking out of his tyres in catching Russell. I think he was actually driving pretty desperate at that point and wasn’t thinking about his tyre life but as I said we’ll never know.

      1. Yes I was also expecting them to go off. It was more a face saving catchup push, and then one can always blame the tyres later.

  3. I would say Russell making Hamilton work harder for his wins has to be good. On the other side of the coin Verstappen has another drive his equal in a competitive car, all good then.

  4. I think Max will find Russel “very difficult” as an opponent also.

    Either way, its win win if you’re a Brit!

    1. You British people don’t know how lucky you are!! Lewis for years and know lando and George to enjoy for years to come.
      For Dutch people Max is a once in a lifetime opportunity…..

      1. Max will no longer be alone, rumor is De Vries will join Alfa Romeo or Williams.

    2. Absolutely. George in a Mercedes is a serious rival. Lets see how 2022 shakes up things in terms of car performance

  5. Russel is a terrifying prospect for a Max fan.

    George is fast as hell and does not appear to be a diva like Hamilton.

    Sparks will fly and Hamilton is not that perfect when things are not going his way.

    One of them will prove to be better, and that will be hard to beat by Red Bull.

    1. Unless the battle between them means that they start to take points off one another, leaving the way open for Verstappen to capitalise.

      Although I expect if Russell gets a strong start to the season, Mercedes will clip his wings before Hamilton’s dummy gets thrown too far from the pram.

      1. If the 2nd driver is faster than the 1st, there’s nothing you can do, he will become the 1st, I’m not saying this will happen cause hamilton is better than vettel, but just look at ferrari 2019 for this example.

    2. True, a serious step back so to say for the RB team if George gets that seat.

  6. Max would not want Russell as his teammate, that’s for certain. Other than Ricciardo he’s only had second raters as teammates.

    1. Perez wouldn’t normally qualify as second-rater in my book, but on a good day at the same level as Bottas or Rosberg. But having to dig deep and get to Max’s level is hard and he seems to overdrive the car, which makes him even slower

      1. Perez is a second rate driver – always has been. I’d bet on Rosberg kicking his butt too.

    2. @greenflag Not sure how you can be ‘certain’ Max would not want Russell as his teammate. And let’s recall LH seems to prefer VB. And for his 7 WDCs LH has only had second raters as teammates as did MS have only second raters for teammates. The fact is Max came into Red Bull and ended up ending first rater DR’s career there, he is that good. Let’s not pretend that Max has somehow got a monopoly on having second raters for teammates in his relatively short tenure in F1 so far, and that LH and MS with their full careers for proof somehow take a higher road when it comes to that.

      1. Second raters @robbi?

        With a modicum of luck and some one sided reliability, one got the championship. And has multiple more wins and poles than Max.

        And kovalinan was considered the Alonso eater in his earlier years, by his manger no less – he was extremely fast. Just Lewis was faster.

        Botttas – second rater? Surely you have not fell foul to the ridiculously biased set?

        Alonso and Button as world champions while not championship years are certainly part of the reason they were not championship years bar 2011 when no one was other than Vettel.

    3. I honestly think he doesnt care. He wants and knows he has to beat all of them anyway. He is not the kind of ‘create me a setting with a team mate so I can win the title’ guy (Prost and Schumacher like if you will) He just wants to drive and win and beat all opponents. So who cares who is using the sister car.

      1. Though Lewis (like probably all of them) only teamplays until the wins are at stake. We saw that back in the days with Alonso, or more recently with the 2016 finale.

        1. I actually liked the 2016 finale, hamilton was pretty unlucky in that season but fought till the end, rosberg in the interview in monaco later said hamilton made it a very stressing end of season, end of race, end of career for him.

    4. @greenflag You’ll find that the story is about Hamilton having Russell as his team mate, and he’s already said he’d rather not.

  7. Russell had one race at Mercedes at a track that was not typical, so I don’t see how people can so easily extrapolate Russell’s performance over a season from that one race. I also think that people very conveniently forget that Hamilton beat Alonso in identical cars when Alonso was the defending champion. I’d expect Russell to be a competent team-mate who qualifies well. Other than that, who knows as there is a lot that goes into being fast in a race from start to finish. However, I don’t expect him to be able to challenge Hamilton in year one and maybe not in year two either.

    1. @velocityboy Why not when Hamilton has made massive blunders this year, and had way off weekends. In reality he would be way behind Verstappen in almost similar machinery, so it’s not unrealistic to think Russell be level or evn just ahead in similar machinery.

    2. Sorry but drawing on points is not beating, people who don’t remember 2007 might be deceived by your comment, he MATCHED alonso in 2007.

      Hamilton was a rookie and alonso was used to different tyres, that’s a draw to me, then alonso performed better the following hamilton-mclaren years, and generally stayed on a similar level as hamilton improved in 2018 taking into account the cars they had, nowadays alonso is certainly losing some performance due to age but hamilton is also beyond the peak, I’d like to see them in the same car again.

      1. Hamilton beat Alonso in the WDC on countback. He also had a bizarre tyre failure in the penultimate race and an even more bizarre gearbox malfunction in the last race.

        Without those, it wasn’t even close.

      2. Just take a look at the 2007 results @esploratore1

        Who is ahead of Alonso the world championship holder is the final placing?
        Who was ahead of him for two thirds of the year?
        Who bar an insane tyre call and dodgy gearbox would have finished miles ahead on points?
        Alonso was beaten that year – unquestionably.

      3. @esploratore1

        By the way…

        Being a Rookie is equal to a double world champion only getting the exact same tyre mileage in testing (actually he had two days extra) because he used Michelin’s previously? On what planet? Hamilton had a whole new car, tracks and tyres!

        Further, how strange those immense tyre problems only came to light when his team mate started beating him.

        After his own private tyre testing session and about five races and a third into the season, some of which he won…

    3. And yes, disagree with the rest too, since like balue said hamilton should be 50 points behind verstappen with the same luck this year, and russell is verstappen-like.

  8. I somewhat dislike Mercedes, sometimes even Hamilton (more off than on track, I admire his performance and talent), but Russel always seemed like a very decent, hard working lad and great talent. We’d all profit from the move, one more serious contender is something no real F1 fan would refuse. Next season will be hard to predict, but this can’t be a bad thing. I suppose we’ll have one dominant team (the one that interprets the new rules best, as it usually happens), if that’s Mercedes at least we get a good fight between two drivers (unlike last year). If we get lucky and get 3 at least so-so competitive teams we can be in for a real treat. I imagine a battle between great talents like Verstappen (he’s not just a talent anymore, but all right), Leclerc, Sainz, Russel and Hamilton, or maybe Norris instead the Ferrari duo (Brits would be overjoyed, but I wouldn’t mind this at all). Bottas was very useful to Mercedes, but he killed so much fun for the rest of us, despite being a very decent driver and a nice guy. Russel will pose real danger to Hamilton, but also Verstappen (and he’s here long term).

  9. Not a small chance of George sending Lewis to the ground as early as his first season with Mercedes. He did way more impressive things in Williams than Bottas, given the abysmal difference of machinery performance. Once he sorts it out his race starts and he will be shaped up, he’s set to have a serious potential to end the g.o.a.t. brilliant career for good. If he doesn’t make LH whine enough as expected, though… Well, at least Hamilton would have proved himself again, finally, after so many years of flat stability within his all-conquering team. Us, the fans, win either way with George’s move to Merc.

  10. Russel will need a season to adjust. He will likely challenge Lewis some times, but don’t underestimate the vast experience Lewis has with everybody where they are so in tune that it’s all about the details. Russel has got to start with the basics. I expect at least 6 races for him to get settled in.

    1. @passingisoverrated That’s my take too. The whole team and car is practically geared around Hamilton so it will be difficult to maximize things straight away. Like you say, maybe a sason. Plus he will have to contend with the team boss’ favoritism and ordering him around which could be very difficult to overcome, especially if he gets the Bottas treatment one year contracts.

  11. Looks like early mind games by Verstappen. He must know his best chance of a championship is with the two Mercedes battling against each other, and not with him.

    1. @Ajaxn

      I think that it’s pretty funny when Max honestly answers questions and he is accused of mind games.

  12. The first key point is going to be let’s see what the new cars are like to race and how each driver adapts to the new cars. So that is the first fascinating point about next year. It’s to me not as key for GR that he will be the newbie on the team because LH will be a newbie to these new cars as well. So I just don’t expect GR to need the same time to get up to speed as would normally be the case. But of course LH has way more experience in general and may lead him purely out of his proven talent and undeniable experience.

    But for me there is the question as to whether or not GR will indeed be allowed to race LH in full, or whether he will naturally or otherwise be taking a secondary role, and not be asked to take too many points away from LH. Let’s say it is like a more normal season and indeed GR needs some time to adapt that LH doesn’t. Let’s say it is at the start still an LH/MV out front kind of season. That will give LH a jump on the points and it won’t be long before they really have no choice but to not have GR take points away from LH but rather just be there for him strategically.

    So much is going to depend on how they all get off out of the blocks, and how the first third of the season goes amongst the whole grid, before we will know what exactly GR’s role at Mercedes will look like. So while on the outset and on paper yeah it is fair comment to suggest that LH will have his hands more full with GR as he just seems better than VB, I’m not convinced yet that LH will actually end up with his hands more full. Of course I do hope GR can come out swinging and that Mercedes will actually let them race ala LH/Nico, but again, so much will depend on what is going on with the competition before we will know more. LH and Nico were in utterly dominant cars, and if anything the new cars and financial regs are not designed to have any one team dominating ala Mercedes in the bulk of this current chapter. GR may have to kindly and respectfully take a ‘newbie’ type role as student learning from master and not as better-than-VB teammate trying to take over from iconic team staple LH. He may have to have the Mercedes ‘global perspective’ in mind and bide his time.

  13. Ha ha Max – and people say it’s Lewis who plays mindgames :).

    1. 😄😄😄😄

      Spot on

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