Despite Mercedes‘ difficulties this season, one driver that has come away with an increased reputation is Russell. The former Williams driver has taken his experience of maximising the most out of an underperforming car and used it to guide the W13 to respectable finishes.
Of all the drivers on the grid, Russell is the only one to have finished within the top five of every race but his fortune is in stark contrast to that of his team-mate Hamilton who has endured a frustrating start to his campaign.
Having lost out on a record breaking eighth World Championship, Hamilton was backed to return in 2022 with a vengeance but, perhaps sensing his team had not given him a Championship-winning car, Hamilton has run into frustration after frustration.
Excluding a third-place finish in Bahrain, during which both Red Bulls retired, the highest position Hamilton has come is fourth. This has led some to believe that we are seeing a changing of the guard at Mercedes and that is also the opinion of former team owner Jordan who believes Hamilton is “no longer top dog.”
When asked on Channel 4 if Russell has deserved his swap to Mercedes, Jordan said: “Absolutely, I think the big surprise is, everybody globally, in Formula 1 context, thinks that Lewis Hamilton is top dog.
“But he’s no longer top dog, not even in that team because Russell has taken his perch away.
“And I think it’s very interesting to watch and I want to see how Lewis is going to overcome that.”
Toto Wolff though has rubbished claims there is a shift within the team and said he was happy with both of his drivers. The Austrian also said he can “only smile” when he reads stories saying Russell has replaced Hamilton.
“I hardly follow it,” Wolff said to oe24.at when asked what he thought of the noise around his team. “And when I pick up one or two remarks, I can only smile about them. George is doing a good job, but that’s exactly what we expected of him, that’s why he’s with Mercedes.”
Others have also not been so quick to write Hamilton off with Juan Pablo Montoya saying Russell still had a lot to learn from his senior team-mate on race pace.
“I think George, on one-lap pace, is doing a much better job than Lewis – he’s getting more out of the car on one lap,” said Montoya during the ‘Any Driven Monday’ programme on Sky F1.
“When Lewis is on his A-game, he’s hard. I think George can do a job on one lap but he’s got a lot to learn from Lewis on race pace. Same as when Valtteri [Bottas] was there, the pace of Lewis in the races was incredible.”