Mercedes made it “very clear” Russell and Hamilton will have equal status

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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George Russell says he will be given equal status to Lewis Hamilton when he joins the world champion at Mercedes next year.

Having been confirmed as the team’s new driver for 2022 earlier this week, Russell said it has been “made very clear to me” that he will “definitely go in on level terms” with Hamilton.

“Mercedes are always respectful in that regard to give both drivers the best opportunity,” said Russell, who will replace Valtteri Bottas in the team’s line-up.

Russell is confident the pair can race each other closely but cleanly.

“Throughout my junior careers there were a number of drivers that I was very close with on pace and very often very close with on-track,” he said. “But there’s no reason why there would be any falling-outs or anything.

“I’m sure we’re going to race each other respectfully but hard as well at the same time, as Lewis and Valtteri have over the past five years.”

Mercedes want no repeat of the fractious relationship which existed between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The pair were team mates from 2013 to 2016, and took each other while disputing the lead at the Spanish Grand Prix in their final season as team mates.

“Mercedes have had clear experience of a poor dynamic in the team and they’ve made it absolutely clear that they don’t want on a repeat,” said Russell. “On a personal level as well I don’t want that either.

“I think it’s so important for team mates to work together to push the team. Next year it’s a new car, there’s no guarantees who’s going to have the fastest car so I guess it’s our job as drivers to push that forward.

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“I’d say as well Lewis and I are at very different stages in our career which I think also helps. I have a huge amount of respect for him I think being so much younger and looking up to him as a young karting driver changes that dynamic a lot too so I don’t see there being any issues at all.”

The 23-year-old said he was “extremely happy” to be signed up by the reigning champions after three years in Formula 1. “It’s pretty surreal to be honest because I’ve been part of Mercedes for so long now.

“I joined as a junior driver, coming through the ranks, testing for them, reserve driver. And still being at Williams they over-looked things, managed me. So in a way I’m almost returning back to where I started my journey towards F1.

“But equally obviously it’s sad to close this chapter with Williams. It’s been a great journey and so pleased we’ve had some great results in recent races to show for our efforts.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” he added. “I’m under no illusion how tough that’s going to me. We all know how strong Lewis is and in my opinion he’s probably the greatest driver of all time. He’s a seven-times world champion for a reason. So I think I’m in an incredibly fortunate position that I’m able to go in and learn from the best.”

Following Mercedes’ driver announcement earlier this week, Hamilton contacted Russell to congratulate him on his appointment.

“We spoke earlier this week over text, he said congratulations and he’s looking forwards to being team mates with me and seeing how I get on and I said likewise,” said Russell. “It’s a privilege for me to be lining up alongside him.

“Obviously all these photos came around on social media of when I was a young boy looking up to Lewis. I’s pretty crazy to see how the times have gone and lining up alongside him next year.”

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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
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84 comments on “Mercedes made it “very clear” Russell and Hamilton will have equal status”

  1. Question is, who is being more naive here, Toto or Russell? :D I think Toto wins this one.

    Reply moderated
    1. Search for 2017 articles and they said the same of bottas hahahahah

    2. Yeah, after all one is a 8 times world champion soon and the other is a Williams driver

  2. Better for George to stick that on his mind and demand, not ask politely, a real equality treatment against the goat starting from round 1 if needed. The sooner he shows huge power inside and outside the track, the earlier he’ll knock Hamilton from the throne at Mercedes.

    Reply moderated
  3. ha, ha, ha, hhahahahaha

  4. I wouldnt expect otherwise from public statement, but Toto imposed a Hamilton primacy over drivers he could easily beat.
    Russell seems to be the best challenge in the same car since Rosberg championship.
    So, either 2022 starts with 2-3 Hamilton DNFs and Russell podia, or there will be unequal treatment.
    The only other way is Russell pushing Hamilton as Rosberg pushed – sometimes even literally outo of the track – and I doubt that he will do that in his 1st year.

    1. Russell needs to make his presence known. I think he needs to do what Leclerc did when he arrived at Ferrari. Russell needs to make his presence known and stamp the “new sheriff is in town”!

      1. Yes, but Leclerc “took advantage” of a hungerless Vettel.
        Ferrari blunders (team orders to benefit Vettel) became outrageous.
        Even so, Ferrari kept Vettel privileges for almost the entire season.
        Then, unless Hamilton perfomance drops precipitously in the 2022 car, the only chance of a relatively equal treatment is that Russel show himself as the sole Mercedes title contender for the year.
        I mean, Hamilton might not even need team orders in 2022, but unless Russell is clearly ahead in the championship, there is a #1 driver in Mercedes, as well there will be when Hamilton retires.
        With the current cars, any dispute between teammates is a negative sum game. But who knows, maybe 2022 regulations are really a game changer and Russell and Hamilton will find 2 or 3 cars between them, making this a moot point.

        1. Russel has to do what Hamilton did in 2007. if Hamilton hadn’t challenged (and eventually beat) Alonso so hard then, would he still be around, would he have won 7 championships, and would anybody remember him today? his carreer woudl probably have turned out like Kovalainen’s…

        2. I see your point and I also doubt Hamilton will see a dramatic drop in performance from this year to next. And yes the new regs next year can really shuffle things up. However, if he doesn’t go for it (may require to go against team orders at times) otherwise he may become a forever number 2 like Bottas, Rubens, Massa, etc.

          If Russell pushes to take that number one role from Hamilton. He needs to do it. What is Mercedes going to do? Dump him so another team like RBR scoops him up? Is Mercedes really going to hold on to Hamilton at his current age to the bitter end at the risk of losing Russell? I honestly think Russell holds ALL the cards here and he needs to just take it! That is what the best do! Michael Schumacher, Max, Leclerc, etc. I’m not saying Russell needs to be destructive as team is important, but he needs to take charge and show he’s ready to lead and be that guy! These guys are after-all graded against their teammate!

          1. @flyingferrarim it’s quite unlikely that Hamilton will suffer a tremendous drop in performance next season. Even if Russell manages to be quicker, it’ll be tight. It’s going to be tough for Russell to completely win over this team that has experienced such success with Hamilton over the past 10 years and replace Lewis 100%.

            This happened at McLaren where Jenson became the golden boy (no one knows why) and Lewis simply left amicably. Lewis’ departure nearly destroyed McLaren and 10 years later they are still trying to stand on their feet.

            The last thing Mercedes should do is push Lewis aside and if Toto does that, I’d be very surprised. He knows in Lewis he has a talent the likes of Federer and Ronaldo.

          2. @freelittlebirds
            You make good points… I don’t believe McLarens downfall had anything to do with Lewis leaving though. McLaren was going through a lot of changes at that time with Ron Dennis and a complete re-org. I think Lewis just saw what was going on and jumped ship doing what he felt was best for his career. And hey, it turned out he made a very good decision to leave.

          3. @flyingferrarim I agree – Lewis’ departure wasn’t the only thing that contributed to McLaren’s decline. I think it was a combination of factors and his departure was just one of the major turning points where things have just reached a point of no return for the team.

        3. I think Leclerc took advantage of the rift between Vettel and Binotto following Arrivabene’s departure.

          1. I’m not sure I entirely agree. I think that rift was caused toward the end of Leclerc’s season. Ferrari more time than not, in the beginning, favored Vettel! I think the second season, yes, that rift essentially was the cause of Vettel performing well under his ability as he looked unmotivated. But I do think that Leclerc’s arrival got that ball rolling and snowballed. I think Brazil was the moment the crack turned into a canyon!

          2. @flyingferrarim there were a lot of things happening that we weren’t aware of – Vettel’s drop in performance coincided largely with Binotto’s rise in power. Those two got along worse than Vettel and Webber.

            In fact, Vettel has removed ALL vestiges of Ferrari from his life selling his prized car collection.

            Binotto nearly ruined Vettel’s career and there was nothing he could do. I have a feeling, though, that Vettel will be redeemed and Binotto is going to Whitmarsh Ferrari.

          3. @freelittlebirds
            you maybe right, but it always takes two! Vettel made many errors and dropped the ball many times while at Ferrari and Ferrari dropped the ball on him as well in crucial moments. None the less, from my perspective as a fan, that relationship soured later in the 2019 season. I also do think Binotto handled much of what was going on poorly, but it was his first time in this sort of role. I do think Binotto has grown a lot from what has gone on. He seems to have the team really moving forward now which is good to see.

          4. @flyingferrarim Yeah, you’re right! We can’t hold Vettel blameless either. I think it was just a bad situation between them, I think and it just snowballed with the early decision not to renew etc.

            We’ll see how things go. The tifosi definitely want Binotto to succeed! But even if they don’t, it’s great to see the battles between Ferrari, McLaren, and Alpine.

          5. @freelittlebirds

            Binotto nearly ruined Vettel’s career and there was nothing he could do. I have a feeling, though, that Vettel will be redeemed and Binotto is going to Whitmarsh Ferrari.

            New popular set of excuses now. Blaming key figures in a team for all the misunderstandings, interpersonal problems, and even performance drops. It’d be easy for me to blame Ron Dennis for Alonso failing to beat Hamilton in 2007, but things like that cannot amount to the largest share of it. They made one of rarest cases in which neither driver outperformed the other in a decisive way during a season. Despite that, McLaren as a whole lost big time and the blame was on them all, no doubt.

    2. As much as Mercedes will say publicly that both drivers are equal, the reality is that Hamilton is King at Mercedes unless somebody dethrones him or he retires.

      Hamilton is a couple of years past his prime IMO, but still a great driver.
      Russell hasn’t fully proved himself yet. Is he up to it?

      Reply moderated
      1. Hamilton is a couple of years past his prime

        Not according to knowledgeable people. Last year was one of his best career years.
        It’s not only the dominant car that does the work.

        1. Yeah what a great career year that was, the car a second a lap quicker than the entire field(including his teammate) won most races.

          Slow hand clap

        2. And he managed to lose a championship one of the few years he had a teammate with a bit of dignity

    3. And you based this on someone whose best result was to qualify 2nd?

      Reply moderated
    4. I expect Russell to walk all over Lewis to be honest. Given the age difference and the little difference in quali pace between Hamilton and Bottas I do not think Lewis is still rising

      1. Thats what people said about Damon Hill when he joined Williams … Prost made a mockery of him.

        Reply moderated
      2. Mayrton

        I expect Russell to walk all over Lewis to be honest. Given the age difference and the little difference in quali pace between Hamilton and Bottas I do not think Lewis is still rising

        I expect Russell to outqualify Hamilton more often than not, that’s right. The trickier part comes in the race, but the g.o.a.t. has not been as spectacular in race strategy as some think.

        Reply moderated
  5. Mercedes don’t have the dominance they once enjoyed. As such they can’t allow their driver battle away and destroy potential to win championships.
    They will be given the first 3rd of the season to establish the order and and potential before all effort is put behind one driver.
    What matters for Russell is to be dependable in those situations where he has to deliver. If they sense Russell can not be relied upon they will still support Hamilton even if he is slightly behind in points by the decision point, as he has shown reliability in difficult situations.
    The team is essentially Russell’s now even if they hand over process might take a season or two.

    1. They start every season stating both drivers have equal opportunity to compete. They rarely make it a quarter through the season before they transition to the Hamilton show! Don’t get me wrong, Hamilton is usually the better performer, but still. Nico only won his WC because he went against all team orders and still won with a little luck as Hamilton experienced a couple unexpected mechanical failures in that season.

      1. During Nico’s time in the team, there was no choice as to who was the default team leader because they were essentially competing with each other.
        The team only interfered when there was risk of a crash and losing points.

      2. What team order took place in 2016 that Nico went against? The only one I could think of was Monaco, where Ricciardo was lapping Nico half a second each sector, they told him to move over for Lewis, but promised to let him pit first. At the Austrian GP Nico started 6th and he was put on a better strategy which meant that Lewis has to pass him on track to win! I wont begrudge Nico winning the title because Lewis played a part in handing the title over to the German, at least 30% of it was his fault.

        Reply moderated
      3. A Little luck for mechanical failures but Hamilton lost a lot of positions at the start in six or seven races, he lost way more points that way than with the mechanical failure

        1. No he really did not!

          Rosberg had one less bad start as it was a car issue.

          Hamilton lost three mguH in qualifying, required a new engine and had a complete engine failure while leading a few laps from the end!

          In effect LH had issues in 20% of the races that year giving Rosberg a huge boost of points that he did not win by.

          Oddly his winning year was actually his worst year of driving.

    2. What I’m saying is Hamilton’s stats have been unnecessarily padded because of this. Don’t get me wrong, this was very much the same thing during the Schumacher Ferrari era as well. No one liked it and most seasons it was unnecessary as both era’s showed these team where the class of their own.

  6. Everybody’s gangsta until James radios them!!

    1. Imagine James having the ability to call anyone in road going vehicles as well.
      Hey “Ghost Rider”, this is James, please abort your fastest lap attempt :P

      Although of course giveing the fastest lap to Bottas instead of Hamilton was not reasonable here.
      On the other hand, during the Schumacher era, Michael gave a few wins back to Barrichello or Massa after some of the championships were sealed. (If i remember corrctly i have seen such events, even if there were obviuos team orders to help Schumacher’s campaigns.)

  7. “George, it’s James”

    1. Probably starts with “Valtteri.. oh sorry out of habit George, it’s james”

    2. Lewis, it’s james!

    3. “James, it’s Lewis…”

      1. “Max, it’s Toto…”

  8. That sounds familiar, wasn’t that what they told Bottas, and anyone who would listen, just before they took him to the vet to be neutered? This team could be fun to watch next year, Toto will have to earn his money keeping peace in a team where Hammy is convinced he is #1!!

    1. I think Bottas has always been allowed to race Lewis. The team never forced him to be the #2 driver. His own race pace created the problems. If he was glued behind Lewis, it would not have been an issue.

  9. Just like « Bottas »
    Stop the best lap chase, please

    Reply moderated
  10. Big mistake to take next year as a learning year and build up to it. Probably career ending, as he’ll be on his backfoot and used as a support driver from which he might never recover.

    He should come out guns blazing and do risky stuff. Just ignore Wolff getting angry and trying to put him in his place. He’s not there to be liked by anybody. Do an ‘Imola’ move on Hamilton at the first opportunity and let the chips fall where they will, even against ‘Lucky Lewis’.

    1. Yeah he should do a Dani Kyviat by taking out his teammate

      Reply moderated
  11. So long as George is capable of beating Lewis. When Rosberg was at Merc we saw the team give priority to whoever was in front as team success was the most important thing. I’d assume they’d have the same philosophy if George was capable of leading races. If he’s clearly number 2 in race trim, then he’d likely be Bottas 2.0. Or is it 4.0?

    1. Do you know how many races Lewis has chased down Rosberg and passed him? actually do you know how many races Rosberg has won from pole? Actually they raced to the end, in 2015 It looked like Vettel might snatch 2nd place this was why he got the preferable strategy in Mexico and Brazil this got Lewis angry.

      Reply moderated
  12. Well, we all got what we wanted at Mercedes…I sense more than a few nervous janes among the usual “It’s the car” crowd, do I?

    1. But they told me ‘George will never be allowed in a Mercedes whilst Hamilton is there.’

      1. I suspect more than a few are preparing the “the team favours Lewis” and “the team is built around Lewis” and “He’s new to the car and needs time” stuff.
        That train won’t be late…

      2. ian dearing

        But they told me ‘George will never be allowed in a Mercedes whilst Hamilton is there.’

        He tried to delay the indelible as long as he could, probably wanting to keep puppy Bottas at his side until the last race before retirement, to avoid the inconvience (at least) that the challenge of going agaisnt George represents.

        Reply moderated
        1. Ah, so when they claimed George will never be allowed in the team and kept repeating the same thing every other post, they didnt actually mean it or believe it. So just spouting nonsense. Got it.

          1. ian dearing

            Ah, so when they claimed George will never be allowed in the team and kept repeating the same thing every other post, they didnt actually mean it or believe it. So just spouting nonsense. Got it.

            Yeah, if they literally meant it then it’s true, that was nonsense. It’d be a too pessimistic assumption. Finally you got one right, amid so much comments in which critical thinking was spoiled by zealotry.

    2. What a dumb comment when the whole world saw what happened when Russell parachuted into Hamilton’s car.

      I bet it’s you who is the nervous jane now..

      1. What happened when Mika Salo was parachuted into Schumacher’s car? Ferrari use team order to give Irvine the win.

        Does that mean Salo is anywhere near the two Ferrari drivers

        Reply moderated
        1. @drgraham

          Yep we did…
          He lost

          Not because of his own doing, was it? In your pro-Hamilton world of distorted reality, though, it might have been.

          Reply moderated
      2. They are making up storylines as they go indeed. Lack of opponents I guess

  13. How did he have the negotiating power to claim equal status? A merc junior in a merc team being promoted to merc…

    Unlikely he did. And i dont beleive merc have demonstrated in the last 5 years that they have no number 1 and 2 status.

    This is just politically correct PR in my opinion. Russell will be second to the superstar hero already driving in the team.

    1. Mog

      Russell will be second to the superstar hero already driving in the team.

      Unless he dethrone the king, hard task but he has the ability to do it and we’ll see if he have the bravery to affirm himself, even if it lets Toto seething on team radio.

      Reply moderated
    2. Because he is one of the most talented drivers on the grid who was out of contract at the end of the season who could have been signed by any top team. Mercedes have a 7 x WDC who can walk at anytime he feels like, and will probably do that in the next few years. Mercedes need the next Ham/Max/LeClerc/Lando now. Given how close Max and Ham are during qually or when both are problem free during a race, if George is beating Ham as many of you think he is beating Max at the same time.
      And if that happens the story is not about the young gun replacing the old, but the young gun coming out from the back of the grid and putting Max the wunderkid back in his box. And Mercedes marching forward for the next decade taking every WCC and WDC thats available.

      1. ian dearing

        Given how close Max and Ham are during qually or when both are problem free during a race, if George is beating Ham as many of you think he is beating Max at the same time.

        As quali performances from George has been stellar, one might expect he’d outqualify any other driver on the grid (if he survives the hype) with the same machinery, even Lewis and Max. But (almost) all points are actually scored on a Sunday, so the question also revolves around as who would have an edge on George in a race day and how much. Lewis has been better than Max in Saturdays but the opposite has been generally true on Sundays. So, the better a driver is in race pace, strategy, tyre management and race planning, more likely it becomes for him to beat Russell as team mate. With his current level, Alonso might be the best positioned driver to have the measure on Russell during races after only having to care about being qualified one spot behind him. Given the big difference on their race starts level, it helps to make it striking clear. Not that Russell cannot improve those traits, though.

        Reply moderated
    3. And i dont beleive merc have demonstrated in the last 5 years that they have no number 1 and 2 status

      This is quite funny

  14. George needs to make sure he doesn’t take many team orders or he’ll just become the next Bottas. You can’t be Mr Nice once you get in the car. Senna, Schumacher, Vettel & Hamilton have proven that.

    1. Remember Max’ “NO” in Singapore when asked to make way for his team mate. That is the ONLY option for George. Take it to Lewis instantly, we have seen Hamilton does not cope with pressure well given the mistakes he made this year.

  15. This is not a 2007 Alo v Ham repeat, the circumstances are totally different.

    Lewis is arguably at the tail end of his career at this stage, while Alonso, albeit double world champion at the time, had his whole career ahead of him.

    It will only be natural for Lewis to be unsettled by Russell, but he and the team will acclimatise to a new normal as the season progresses. It will really depend on how Toto and Lewis manage the situation should Russell hit the ground running. Russell has nothing to lose in this scenario, he has everything to gain.

    I think we should all admit that there is no such thing as “equal status” at the pointy end. Yes, it may be contractually as such, but, if history has showed us anything, the human nature of teams will shine through and they will gravitate towards one or the other. Be it the mechanics or even team bosses, we’ve seen it all in the past. It really is down to how the driver galvanises his support within the team.

  16. Equal status.. My ass.

    This will be like Vettel – Leclerc, equal status will last a few races, then they will try to make it seem equal…

    Then they will call bad strategy calls for the slow one..

  17. If there will be a poor dynamic it will be because of the crybaby lewis, who spends every gp weekend where he doesn’t lead every lap whining

    1. That certainty has Toto worried I am sure. He does it instantly, when not leading from the front. Max even made a comment on it during last race hahaha. That confirms everyone talks about it this way. George will be Lewis and Lewis will be Alonso (ref 2007 season). Do you really think that George is going to miss this chance after being stuck in that horrible car? Lewis will leave Mercedes team after 2022

  18. This reminds me of the everlasting phrase by Iron Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Not that I believe that Toto or Hamilton will punch Russell, but to believe in equal status between the newcomer and the seven-time world champion is hilarious, tbh.

    1. Exactly. George won’t follow that and claim 1st position I am sure. He will need to. Hamilton is done. It is his time now.

  19. Exactly, just like Bottas always had. Until one of them is realistically really out of contention in the championship. We have to see how Russell stacks up.

    But yeah keep pretending that Bottas was somehow held beck apart from that one time in Russia 2018 where indeed he was.

    1. Bottas was already given teamorders in the first few races of a season.
      Bottas doesn’t have equal status at Mercedes, and everybody knows that.
      Mercedes wanted a nice calm period after Rosberg, and from a sporting perspective you can’t blame them.
      As a F1 fan the total control Wolff wants and demands, is completely unacceptable for the sport.

      Reply moderated
      1. Toto would never do that to Valtteri and Lewis would never have okayed it. I don’t know the reason for Bottas’ performance drop but I suspect it’s mental.

    2. Exactly … People ignored the fact that Bottas won the first races of both 2019 & 2020 season with Lewis coming home second, if he was a #2 They could have send the message “Fernando is faster than you”

      Reply moderated
    3. @f1osaurus

      Exactly, just like Bottas always had. Until one of them is realistically really out of contention in the championship. We have to see how Russell stacks up.

      Russia 2018 proves it’s a lie, as I commented in another thread but you ran away.
      @freelittlebirds

      Toto would never do that to Valtteri and Lewis would never have okayed it.

      After the fastest lap debacle just last race this is one of the most egregious jokes ever.

      Reply moderated
      1. @rodewulf No, Russia 2018 made sense at the time. Bottas was out of it and Ferrari had the superior car by a margin. Mercedes could not expect Vettel would keep blundering like he did.

  20. I wouldn’t expect GR to say anything other than what he has, so I find his words predictable and politically correct, but that’s not a knock on him at all. It’s just that what else is he going to say at this point.

    But the thing is he is wrong to speak of the ‘poor dynamic’ between LH and NR as something they would not want repeated when the undeniable fact is that TW had re-signed Nico for two more years of it past 2016. How bad could it have really been when they wanted two more years of it? Along came VB and suddenly that rivalry was so toxic that they were glad to have it behind them? I never bought that rhetoric. They wanted more of it, not less. And as TW implied of the new happy happy pairing with VB…if VB is to compete against LH at some point the gloves will have to come off and then who knows where the dynamic goes from there. Of course VB simply hasn’t the racecraft in order for the gloves to come off.

    So same with GR. Of course he has said what he has for now, but let’s see where Mercedes is amongst the competition, and let’s see how all the drivers do in their totally different cars, and then we’ll see what the dynamic will be. Of course it will be different than LH/NR because LH/GR weren’t karting friends going back to their youth etc etc. But if/when the gloves have to come off? It’s going to be fascinating, I hope. Mainly, I suppose, most people likely expect GR to at least be better than VB.

    1. @robbie
      Either he had become plainly ingenuous out of the sudden or (way more likely) he’s adhering to Mercedes’ PR standard talk but actually being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And you’re right, the LH/NR partnership being branded as toxic is a posteriori and in fact just another marketing stance completely voided of deep meaning as so many things on Toto-led team.

      Reply moderated

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