George Russell beating Lewis Hamilton is ‘changing of the guard’ at Mercedes

While both drivers have endured tough starts to the season, it is the seven-time world champion who trails his younger teammate in the standings after five races

Jack Rathborn
Wednesday 11 May 2022 15:21
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<p>George Russell is pushing Lewis Hamilton in 2022</p>

George Russell is pushing Lewis Hamilton in 2022

George Russell outperforming Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1 in 2022 represents a “changing of the guard” at Mercedes according to former world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

The seven-time world champion has endured a tough start to the year, trailing championship leader Charles Leclerc by 68 points and languishing back in sixth place.

Russell has also experienced a testing start to life at Mercedes, but the 24-year-old is 23 points clear of his teammate in the standings.

But despite both struggling due to the heavily porpoising W13 car produced by the Silver Arrows, Villeneuve, who won the 1997 championship with Williams, has been impressed by Russell and his ability to “ride the wave”.

Villeneuve added that in comparison Hamilton is merely “trying not to drown”.

“I think we have seen the final changing of the guard at Mercedes,” he said in his column for Formule1.nl.

“George Russell is riding the wave, Lewis Hamilton is trying not to drown. After many years of winning without competition, it’s hard to wake up and realise it’s not that easy.

“He now has to drive like he did in his first two years in Formula 1, which is what Russell is doing now. In the race Russell took the decision: leave me out, maybe a safety car will come – and it paid off.

“Lewis’ champion’s luck seems to have left him, he doesn’t have the momentum and nothing’s going his way. It’s going to be a tough fight, but Lewis is a racer and a champion. He knows what needs to be done and we’ll see if he still has the energy to do it. But I think missing the world title last year is a heavy burden for him that he carried with him all winter. He was bitter and feels that he was robbed.

“But you can see from the way Max drives that he didn’t steal the title at all and is a deserved champion.”

Hamilton’s issues go beyond the quality of the car, with the Briton venting his frustration with the team’s strategy following a disappointment Miami Grand Prix.

Hamilton came out worse off following a ‘50/50’ decision not to change tyres during the race, with Mercedes race engineer Peter Bonnington handing the Briton the option over pitting during a late safety car.

Hamilton declined, whereas Russell opted to take on new tyres, enabling him to overtake him and finish one place ahead in fifth.

”In that scenario, I have no clue where everyone is, so when the team say, ‘it is your choice’, I don’t have the information to make the decision,” Hamilton reacted.

“That’s what your job is. Make the decision for me as you have all the details and I don’t. I rely on the guys for that, but today they gave the decision to me and I didn’t understand it.

“When you are given that responsibility it feels like gambling and I don’t like that. It was just a bit unfortunate.”

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