The first target for a Formula 1 driver is beat your team mate. George Russell knows how to do this having dominated every partner during his time at Williams F1.
Yet having landed the dream drive in the team winning 8 consecutive constructor titles, Russell appears to be leading the apology for both the team and Lewis Hamilton’s poor showing this season.
During the pre weekend media event in Imola, Russell told Sky Sports he wasn’t concerned about beating his team mate, it was more important they “worked together” to bridge the gap to Ferrari and Red Bull.
Nico Rosberg the Sky Sports F1 driver analyst ridiculed this idea. Having listened to the Hamilton pen interview he observed, “Remember, there’s always that thing that he [Hamilton] wants to beat his team mate. That’s really really important to him and with George performing so well that could be THE biggest motivator for Lewis to keep going, keep fighting, cos he does not want to see George in front of him ever again.”
Russell was asked by Natalie Pinkham of Sky, why he was outperforming Lewis this year by such a margin, and the new Mercedes recruit gave a long rambling answer that pretty much said he was lucky with the current W13 car and Lewis wasn’t.
Rosberg again scorned this notion, commenting, “Yes, I understand George but that was a bit of a boring diplomatic answer there. I would have loved to have heard ‘I was a bit better on the brakes than Lewis….. I just did a better job…. Or something like that. But I understand he needs to keep a low profile in the situation he’s in.”
Whether you like Rosberg or not, he did fight Hamilton in the same car to win a World drivers’ F1 title and he knows you need to deploy every trick in the book to beat Hamilton.
One of the stand out things from Rosberg’s championship year was how he got inside Hamilton’s head and forced him to question himself and the team. This was crucial for Rosberg to best his team mate.
George Russell needs to learn that to be a serial winner and an F1 world champion you need to seize every opportunity to first beat your team mate and keep them down before you think about beating the other drivers in other teams.
This ‘nicey nicey’ keep Lewis and Toto happy approach will come back to bite Russell when it comes down to the wire.
Russell needs to develop a killer instinct, It’s him or Lewis leading the team and he has a golden opportunity to get one over one of F1’s most successful drivers at present.
Hamilton looks a broken man at the moment. The hangover from losing the 2021 title still probably lingers, and the shock a Mercedes having a mid field car after 8 dominant seasons merely compounds this.
It must feel to Lewis like the sky has fallen in.
And Russell must take every opportunity to create even further problems for Hamilton.
He is the new kid on the Mercedes block who is simply faster than the ageing champion and could send Lewis into retirement.
That’s the mark of a true winner.