George Russell represents F1’s future

ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — Lewis Hamilton says he would welcome George Russell as his teammate at Mercedes next year, with it looking increasingly likely that the Williams driver will replace Valtteri Bottas in 2022.

Russell, who is managed by Mercedes, said on Thursday that he was informed before the Belgian Grand Prix about where he will be driving next year, with an official announcement expected in the coming weeks.

Bottas will move from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo next year to replace Kimi Raikkonen, who on Wednesday announced his retirement from F1 at the end of the year.

Russell, 23, is in his third season in Formula One and scored the first podium of his career at the rain-affected Belgian Grand Prix last weekend.

Asked about Russell joining him at Mercedes next year, Hamilton said it was important the next generation of F1 drivers get a chance with top teams.

“I think it would be quite good, I honestly think it would be good,” he said. “George is an incredibly talented driver, clearly.

“I would say probably the only highlight from last week was his qualifying lap, it was amazing. I think he’s humble, I think he’s got a great approach.

“At the moment naturally I have to be super supportive of the team-mate I have right now, so that’s why I’m always supportive of Valtteri because we have a job to do right now. Neither of us can win the team championship alone, we have to do it collectively.

“But I think it would be… He [Russell] is the future, he’s one of the members of the future of the sport. I think he’s already shown incredible driving so far and I’m sure he’s going to continue to grow. So where better to do it than in a great team like this or what team wherever he goes to?”

Russell has shown flashes of brilliance in the Williams over the past three years and excelled at Mercedes when he replaced Hamilton for a single race at last-year’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

But Hamilton said he does not feel threatened by the 23-year-old and reiterated that there was respect between the two of them.

“It’s not like I have anything to prove,” he added. “I raced against some incredible drivers as teammates.

“My rookie year I was alongside Fernando [Alonso, two time world champion]. I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to prove.

“If anything, if it does turn out I’ve got a new teammate, I’m in a different place in my life, I’m excited to see the youngsters coming through.

“It’s not that I want to lose to a youngster, naturally! But I’m excited to see the progression of the sport as I am a fan of the sport at the end of the day.

“You’ve heard me earlier on in the year talk about Lando [Norris]. It’s encouraging to see these youngsters come through. They’re fierce, I see a lot of myself in the younger generation. I think they’re what the sport is going to rely on moving forward.

“There will be things we learn from each other. I think it’s important that respect is always there, and communication will always be at the core of that. We’ve got an amazing setting at our team in terms of morale, in terms of our processes and how the team put their arms around the two drivers.

“That’s why we have harmony in our team. I think we are so much better prepared than we were in previous years.”

Hamilton’s main rival for this year’s title, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, said he expects Russell to take the fight to Hamilton in a way Bottas has not been able to in recent years.

“If he joins then for sure he will make it very difficult for Lewis,” Verstappen said. “He jumped into the car in Bahrain and basically from Lap 1 he was making it very difficult for Valtteri so you can only imagine the more experience you gain in that car and the more you get accustomed within the team, naturally you’re going to get faster.

“When you do your first race you’re guided by the team about setup direction because you just don’t know what to do really, initially, with the car. I remember my first race at Red Bull; the thing I said is that we will just follow a bit what Daniel [Ricciardo] is doing because I have no clue about what this car needs to go quick because even though F1 cars look pretty similar, the way of setting them up can be very different.

“Already what you could see with the performance he did in Spa was really good. Of course, they set up the car a bit more for wet conditions but nevertheless to do that in a Williams was very impressive.

“I do expect him to do very well if he gets that seat.”

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