Lewis Hamilton has led a privileged life since Rosberg won his WDC and left the team. Valterri Bottas was always a number two driver and regularly instructed to move over and let the British driver by.
Yet following his worst start to an F1 season, Hamilton is under severe pressure, given his team mate has scored almost twice as many points as him. There will surely come a time when being eclipsed by his young team mate causes a Hamilton explosion.
At present George is all “Lewis is still fast” and will get over the car issues, but team mate tension is as inevitable as it was between Hamilton and Rosberg.
Rosberg was the resident team Mercedes driver when Hamilton fled McLaren following Ron Dennis’ public comments stating “when I last looked at the contract I was paying him [Hamilton]. It’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around.”
When Lewis arrived at Mercedes, the driver context was Rosberg had seen off 7 times world Champion Michael Schumacher who’s return to F1 had proven to be a damp squib.
The first indication all was not well in the Mercedes camp was when Nico got his elbows out in Spa 2014, by refusing to back out of an on track battle, later explaining it was payback for Hamilton’s behaviour n Hungary.
Toto Wolff discussed the tension on Jake Humphries High Performance Podcast and admitted it was a problem he inherited but was not productive.
“I’m not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player,” Wolff said.
“If the debriefing room is full of negativity, because the two drivers are hostile with each other, then that will spill over into the energy into the room, and that is not something I will ever allow again.”
Well the roles are now reversed. Hamilton is the established Mercedes driver and Russell the young pretender who clearly wants to be an F1 drivers’ champion. So conflict will be inevitable.
The early results for this new Mercedes partnership have seen the ex world champion struggle while Russell is thriving. The young Brit has started the 2022 with a race finish record of P4/5/3/4. Hamilton by contrast has a P3/10/4/13.
Russell is the only driver on the grid to start the season with top 5 finishes at each race. If both were rookie drivers a team boss would clearly soon favour Russell when team orders become necessary.
Yet Lewis is part of Mercedes F1 folklore and the regular decisions on favour may not yet fall in the direction of the more competent Russell.
Gerhard Berger believes if the early season Mercedes team mate form continues tensions will arise quickly. “He [Russell] will soon get on Lewis’ nerves,” the former McLaren and Ferrari star was quoted by Speedweek.com.
Russell does not have the experience of Rosberg when he came across the mental duel with Hamilton, but F1’s young gun and probable future WDC will learn quickly that Lewis mind games are a part of life.