George Russell and Lewis Hamilton have developed a strong working relationship in first season as team-mates at Mercedes; Russell: “I’m the new kid within the team and I’m not going to go out there trying to be the leader of the team when I’m going up against the greatest of all time”
Last Updated: 21/04/22 5:01pm
George Russell says Lewis Hamilton’s status as “captain” of Mercedes means there will be “no hard feelings” between the team-mates, regardless of results.
Having spent the first three seasons of his career at Williams, Russell has settled well in his first campaign at Mercedes despite the German team’s considerable pace deficit to rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
While after three races Russell sits nine points ahead of Hamilton, he is adamant that the seven-time world champion’s standing within the team leaves no doubt as to who is the lead Silver Arrows driver.
“I think because we’re at just different stages of our career, there’s no hard feelings either way,” Russell told Sky Sports ahead of this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in Italy.
“From my side, I’m 24 years old going up against the greatest of all time, if he were to finish ahead of me, obviously I don’t like it but I’m not going to cry and sulk about it.
“I think equally from Lewis’ side, he’s achieved so much – he’s a seven-time world champion, he’s got all the records.
“You see it sometimes when you’ve got two drivers who are at the same stage of their career… In the back of all drivers’ minds they’re fighting for that top leadership spot, whereas for both of us, there isn’t that because Lewis has been here for so long.
“I’m the new kid within the team and I’m not going to go out there trying to be the leader of the team when I’m going up against the greatest of all time who’s been here for 10 years. He’s like the captain of the team and that’s how it should be.”
‘Faith and confidence car will improve’
Russell’s second place in the standings ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix in Imola is somewhat remarkable given Mercedes’ struggles in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Championship leader Charles Leclerc is 34 points clear of Russell, but a poor performance in Melbourne from the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and reliability issues for Red Bull have seen the other title hopefuls fail to capitalise.
While Russell and Hamilton have managed a strong damage-limitation job to this point, there is an understanding that major improvements are required if Mercedes are to remain in touch with their rivals.
“At the moment we’ve got this big issue that we’re trying to get on top of,” Russell said.
“Once it’s in a good window, the car is nice to drive and that’s what gives us all confidence. It’s not a disaster but obviously we do have this porpoising issue, which is really compromising us a lot of lap time and we’re doing everything we can to get on top of it.
“For sure it’s not just the porpoising, there are other issues that we need to get on top of. There’s a lot of talk about the weight of the cars and we’re definitely not the lightest car on the grid, so there’s free lap time just there.
“We need to keep on improving the engine and try to make that more efficient, obviously you’ve got the stable regulations but there’s more we can be doing to get the most out of the engine, which I think some of the other guys are doing a slightly better job of at the moment.
“There are many different approaches and limitations we have, which I think gives me faith and confidence that if we get on top of it over time, we will find a huge chunk of lap time.”
‘Porpoising is a safety concern’
Russell also hinted that the sport’s governing body may have to look into helping teams overcome porpoising, highlighting the issue as a “safety concern” for drivers.
Just about every car on the grid has struggled with the bouncing issue, which is exacerbated in high-speed parts of circuits, but Mercedes appear to be one of the worst affected teams.
Even McLaren, who appear to have the best handle on the issue, are understood to not be completely clear on how they are managing to avoid it.
“Everybody has it to some degree,” Russell said. “Some teams have it worse than others. I think we saw in Melbourne that Ferrari were really exploring the limits but it didn’t seem to compromise them that much throughout the corners.
“I think everybody is constantly learning about it, there’s some teams who have no porpoising issues at all but they don’t understand why either.
“I don’t know what the long-term solution is for F1 because it is a bit of a safety concern, you can’t deal with that forever.
“I think with the ground effects cars, you saw it in the 1970s, this issue was there back then as well, so that is just a feature of this.”
Watch the Emilia Romagna GP all live on Sky Sports F1 as the Sprint returns at Imola. The Sprint is at 3.30pm on Saturday, the Grand Prix starts at 2pm on Sunday.