Lewis Hamilton says his first season in 2021 alongside Mercedes recruit George Russell was a “stressful” affair due to the latter’s impressive pace and results from the outset with the Brackley squad.
Last year, Russell succeeded Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton’s teammate and while the then 24-year-old was labeled as one of the sport’s brightest prospects after spending his formative years at Williams, the young gun’s speed and results surpassed expectations.
Amid the chronic porpoising issues that undermined from the get-go the handling of Mercedes’ first ground-effects car, Russell acquitted himself well and appeared to deal with his machine’s vagaries better than Hamilton.
However, in the first part of the season the two drivers were frequently driving very different cars as Mercedes split its development programme across its garage in a bid to fast-track a solution to the W13’s bouncing phenomenon.
Still, Russell outscored his illustrious teammate and even delivered to Mercedes its single win thanks to the young Briton’s flawless weekend in Brazil at the penultimate round of the season.
But Hamilton, the troubles and Russell’s outperformance made for many uncomfortable moments during the season.
“I would say last year – totally transparent – for sure I felt it,” he said in an interview with M4 Sport.
“George had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If he finished behind me they would say ‘well you finished behind a seven-time world champion’ and if he finished ahead then ‘you’re a legend’.
“I know exactly what that feeling was like, and I had exactly the same with Fernando [at Mclaren in 2007].
“If I finished behind him they would say ‘we expect that it’s your first year’ and if I finished ahead of him, I was great.
“But of course, when you’re then struggling with the car and not feeling you’re able to extract your full potential it was not easy – it was stressful.
“This year I don’t find that at all and I feel back in the swing of things,” he concluded.
Indeed, this year Hamilton appears to have so far turned the tables on his teammate, thanks to Mercedes improving the aero efficiency of its car and therefore its performance.
Russell on the other has struggled with his mount’s jagged-edge traits that have slightly eroded his confidence.
Hamilton currently sits fourth in the Drivers’ standings with 148 points while Russell is sixth, 79 points behind his teammate.
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