Russell relishing battle with Hamilton: “He’s going to come back fighting"

George Russell is relishing another head-to-head battle with Lewis Hamilton as he looks to beat his Mercedes F1 teammate for the second year in a row. 
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AM
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AM

In his debut season with Mercedes, Russell surprisingly outperformed Hamilton, finishing two places and 35 points ahead of the seven-time world champion in the F1 drivers’ standings

Russell also claimed Mercedes’ only pole position and victory of a hugely challenging campaign on his way to becoming just the third teammate to beat Hamilton in F1. 

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But the 25-year-old is braced for a fight back from Hamilton in 2023. 

“I think those stats against a guy like Lewis are pretty irrelevant,” Russell said ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. 

“Last year was clearly a very challenging car to drive. For sure I was pleased with my own personal performance, I think the qualifying pace… At the end of the year we were basically identical. 

“Race-pace is maybe something I want to improve slightly. I probably improved that towards the end of the year compared to Lewis but he's just an animal. 

“He keeps on fighting, keeps on going and he never gives up. I think he’s going to come back fighting even more and I’m excited to have that challenge. 

“But ultimately, the two of us are looking for the top step on the podium and not just the number one spot in the team.”

Red Bull ‘in a league of their own’ 

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day Two.-, EMail:
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir,…

Mercedes are hoping to get back into title contention this year after a miserable 2022 but the team endured a mixed three days of pre-season testing last week. 

Red Bull have already been given the favourites tag heading into the first race, and Russell agrees. 

"It probably wasn’t the smoothest three days we could have hoped for at testing,” he said. “But the learning we found is going to put us in better stead for this weekend. 

"But I think it’s definitely fair to say Red Bull are in a league of their own this weekend. But it'll probably be a nice fight for second between Ferrari and Aston Martin.”

But Russell remains confident that Mercedes will be able to join the fight at the front of the grid sooner rather than later. 

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day Two.-, EMail:
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir,…

“I think our development last year was pretty spectacular over the course of the year,” he added. 

“I think even the improvements we are going to bring to the car this weekend, compared to the test, will take us a step closer. But it’s a very unique circuit here in Bahrain and I’ll be surprised if the gaps are that large at other circuits. 

“I trust in our team and if we develop at the same rate as we did last year, we are definitely starting at a higher point. 

“There’s not too many races at the start of the season, so that gives us some time to develop in the wind tunnel and back in the factory to fight when the main block of races come.”

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