Toto Wolff is well aware that he will need to work hard to manage the situation between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes, according to Sky Sports F1 expert Karun Chandhok. Hamilton will have a new team-mate this year for the first time since 2017 after Russell signed a multi-year deal to replace Valtteri Bottas in the other Silver Arrows seat at the end of last season.
Russell is widely considered as one of the most talented young drivers on the grid and will be desperate to prove his worth alongside the sport’s biggest star in Hamilton at Mercedes over the coming months. He enjoyed a stellar 2021 campaign, ending his two-year wait for points with Williams by claiming his first podium in Belgium after just one lap of a rain-soaked event at Spa.
The 24-year-old went on to secure three additional top-10 finishes to help Williams clinch eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings. He will finally be moving away from the back of the grid this year, though, in order to battle the likes of Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the front of the order with Mercedes.
Russell has often been tipped to pose a threat to Hamilton’s dominance on track more regularly than Bottas managed to during his five-year spell at Mercedes between 2017 and 2021. Chandhok believes that Wolff may have his work cut out to keep both drivers happy over the course of the new season and steer clear of another inter-team rivalry behind closed doors.
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“The biggest question heading into the season is how the Lewis and George battle will unfold,” Chandhok told Express Sport. “We’ve got the biggest regulation change in 40 years, we’ve got Ferrari on the up, but the one I’m most excited to see unfold is Lewis versus George.
“I see so many similarities with Lewis versus Fernando [Alonso] in 2007 and obviously that imploded at McLaren. I think the difference in talking to Toto and Lewis and George at Brackley and Silverstone [is that] Toto’s very conscious about how that played out.
“He’s also fully aware that he doesn’t want a situation like they had with Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis, where they ended up with basically two teams within the same team and the atmosphere wasn’t great. I think Toto will have to work hard to manage that situation but it’s really exciting.
“You’ve got a young guy who is so hungry. You talk to people in the factory and he’s there all the time in the simulator. He’s keen as mustard to get going.
“He’s up against the driver who is statistically the greatest of all time and I would suspect Abu Dhabi has pulled the tail on the tiger a little bit. Lewis is going to come back hungrier than ever.
“I think that whole dynamic is going to be fascinating to watch and my gut feeling is that George will push Lewis much more than Valtteri did in recent times. I think we can all say that. How it actually unfolds, I don’t know.”
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