Lewis Hamilton warned of role reversal in George Russell battle – 'The gloves will be off'


Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton has been warned that ‘the gloves will be off’ alongside new teammate George Russell when the 2022 season starts in Bahrain this weekend. Russell earned his place at the Silver Arrows after impressing at Williams for three seasons. 

Sky F1 analyst Karun Chandhok believes it creates an interesting dynamic within the eight-time world champions as Hamilton is no longer the de facto number one driver, unlike title rival Max Verstappen at Red Bull. He also suggested there are parallels between Russell and Hamilton himself when the seven-time world champion first entered the sport alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

“This intra-team battle has all the makings of a Fernando Alonso versus Hamilton from 2007,” wrote Chandhok in his Sky F1 column. “A young, highly rated, yet largely unproven talent lining up against the best driver of his generation. 

“We all know how that played out and while at the moment George is saying everything out of the Mercedes PR machine’s handbook, I have no doubt that when we get to the first braking zone in Bahrain on the opening lap, the gloves will be off.

READ MORE: Hamilton snubbed for pair by ex-F1 star as Mercedes questions raised

“A key difference between Lewis and George in 2022 and Lewis and Fernando in 2007 was actually pointed out to me by Toto Wolff a couple of weeks ago. He made it very clear that while Ron Dennis had suggested to Lewis that he ought to spend six months being half a second behind Fernando as an understudy, Toto expects George to be right up there fighting for pole position and wins from the opening race in Bahrain.

“Toto was also very clear that after the experience he had with Lewis and Nico in 2015 and 2016, he will not tolerate a team that gets divided, where the atmosphere internally turns toxic so his personal management of this dynamic will be fascinating to watch.”

Chandhok believes Russell’s ability during qualifying throughout his young career has already seen him establish himself as one of the best qualifiers in the sport. He pointed to the 24-year-old’s fine performance as Hamilton’s stand-in at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix as perhaps a sign of things to come.

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“George proved last season that he is one of the best qualifiers in Formula 1,” Chandhok added. “The laps in Silverstone, Spa and Russia last year were among the best of the season. 

“It’s hard to judge his race pace and tyre management because the Williams wasn’t the most competitive car and therefore we tend to look at that one off weekend in Bahrain with Mercedes where he was exemplary.”

The 22-race 2022 campaign, which was set to be a record 23 races before the Russian Grand Prix was cancelled, begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.


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