George Russell tipped to ‘beat’ Lewis Hamilton in Mercedes F1 battle

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ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates winning a 7th F1 World Drivers Championship on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton will face a new challenge in 2022. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Ex-Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher says George Russell ‘can beat Lewis Hamilton from the start’ in his debut season with Mercedes.

The 23-year-old is stepping up to the eight-time constructors’ champions’ second seat for the new campaign, having spent three years at the back of the grid with Williams.

Russell has driven once for Mercedes before, at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain when he replaced Hamilton due to the latter’s positive Covid-19 test, and showed strong pace against then-Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas before a pit stop error cost him a shot at victory.

Bottas has taken the seat made vacant by Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo for 2022, and Russell was presented as a Mercedes driver for the first time last Friday as the Brackley-based squad launched their new W13 challenger for the new era of F1 car design.

Now Schumacher, brother of seven-time world champion Michael and a pundit for Sky TV in Germany, says Russell has the ability to take on and beat Hamilton from the outset.

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‘I thought it was interesting how gentle the two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, were with each other [at the W13 launch],’ said Schumacher, quoted by Speedweek.

‘The young Russell was very careful with his comments and emphasised he wants to learn a lot now. The tone was quite different when George replaced Lewis in Bahrain 2020 and drove alongside Bottas. But I’m convinced that internally it looks different, and I already believe he can beat Lewis from the start.’

Schumacher, who took six grand prix victories during a spell with Williams before finishing his F1 career at Toyota, remains unsure whether Russell can develop to the same legendary level Hamilton has reached.

‘I think Mercedes have a super line-up now,’ he added. ‘I never quite understood why it took so long to replace Valtteri Bottas. 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.’

Russell and Hamilton will test the W13 for the first time at the first pre-season shakedown beginning this Wednesday 23 February in Barcelona, before the season gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir International Circuit on the weekend of 18 March.

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