F1’s George Russell expects big comeback from Lewis Hamilton

F1’s George Russell expects big comeback from Lewis Hamilton

George Russell downplays the fact he beat Formula One great Lewis Hamilton in his first season at Mercedes and fully expects him to be back in charge.

Russell was fourth overall last year, the F1 record-holder with 103 wins and 103 pole positions, compared to Hamilton’s sixth.

Russell’s performance surprised some observers, given that he was linked to a Williams team used to finishing behind most. But he took Mercedes’ only pole position and victory – in Hungary and Brazil – while Hamilton did not win a race for the first time in his 2007 F1 career.

“These stats are pretty irrelevant against a guy like Lewis. He’s got 100 more poles and wins,” Russell said on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Race speed is probably something I want to improve on a little bit, and I probably improved at the end of the year compared to Lewis. But he’s just an animal and he keeps fighting, he keeps going, and he never gives up.” I don’t think so. That’s why I think he’s going to come back fighting even harder.”

Both Mercedes cars struggled for much of last year with what is known as “porpoising”, an aerodynamic issue where the cars bounce and bounce on the track.

Precision testing last week suggested the problem is a thing of the past, and Russell is looking forward to a battle with Hamilton without stressing about the car.

“I’m excited to take on that challenge,” Russell said.

The duo looked relaxed as they arrived for their media duties at the Sakhir Circuit on Thursday ahead of Friday’s first practice session. Russell gave the thumbs up while Hamilton strolled across the paddock in a striking all-red outfit and red-framed sunglasses.

The car had balance and traction issues during testing in Bahrain, but Russell is confident they have been sorted out.

“We had a really good time between the races trying to test and analyze what happened,” he said. , (We were) just working in the wrong window a bit, we were racing in the Bahrain test with a different rear wing for some correlation work, and it was not an optimal rear wing.

Mercedes won a record eight straight constructor titles before Red Bull ended last year when Max Verstappen crushed the field for a record 15 wins and a second consecutive world title.

“We need to believe in our process. Mercedes has built a world championship-winning car for eight consecutive seasons,” said Russell.

But neither is Red Bull, and Verstappen said during testing that the RB19 could be even better than last year’s car.

Russell agrees that for now Red Bull is ahead.

“It is certainly fair to say that Red Bull are in a league of their own this weekend in Bahrain,” he said. “It will probably be a good battle for second place between (Mercedes), Ferrari and Aston Martin. I’m sure we’re going to close that gap as the season progresses.

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