In their first season at Mercedes, George Russell outshone Lewis Hamilton, but in 2023, Russell experienced a dip in performance while the seven-time champion excelled.
Mika Hakkinen, a former F1 world champion, believes Lewis Hamilton asserted his dominance within Mercedes by surpassing George Russell’s performance last year. In a period marked by two seasons of Red Bull dominance and only one Mercedes victory, Hamilton’s exceptional display underscored his influence, particularly following Russell’s win at the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix.
However, in the previous year, Hamilton successfully maximized the potential of his car, unlike Russell who faced difficulties. In an interview with Bild, Hakkinen interpreted this as a declaration from the 39-year-old, signaling to his teammate that he continues to be the primary force at Mercedes.
“Even though George is entering his third season as a Mercedes driver, it is clear that it is Lewis’ team,” the former McLaren racer said. “He has been driving there since 2013 and has worked with many of the engineers and mechanics for years. It doesn’t take 10 minutes of analysis from him to explain the problem. Little things like these ultimately decide in Formula 1 whether you are in pole position or not.”
When reminded that Russell had outperformed Hamilton in their debut season together, Hakkinen responded: “That’s correct. But last season Hamilton finished third and Russell only eighth. That didn’t surprise me. “On the one hand, Lewis wanted to show it to everyone after the Twilight of the Gods had already been talked about and, on the other hand, George was and continues to be under immense pressure.
“When you’re the team-mate of a seven-time world champion, all eyes are automatically on you. It doesn’t matter if you finished on the podium if your teammate won. It’s the same with all teams – but George is racing against a record champion.”
Hakkinen also offered guidance to the team, urging the staff to turn the challenges posed by Red Bull in the past couple of years into motivation to reclaim their competitive position at the forefront. He continued “Mercedes is at a crossroads. There has not been a question mark over the team for a long time.
“After a decade full of success, the past two seasons have left their mark on those responsible and employees. And that’s good! You have to be angry now. Now you have to develop this unconditional will to win again. The team has to become a team again, develop this blind understanding. That is currently missing.”