Lewis Hamilton and George Russell relationship is bright spot in Mercedes miserable start

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Mercedes head to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend with 99 problems, but the boys ain’t one.

The eight-in-a-row Constructors’ champions have been some way off their Ferrari and Red Bull rivals at the start of the campaign, but Formula One’s first European race of the season had been earmarked as an opportunity to throw an extra layer of spice onto what is already a mouthwatering championship battle, should it mark the start of a comeback for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Instead, however, the size of the task facing the Brackley team has proved larger than even the most pessimistic of critics would have expected only weeks ago.

Such is the scale of the deep-rooted porpoising issue that is holding back the Mercs from unleashing the power they genuinely believe they possess, Imola is unlikely to bring a welcome or drastic change of fortunes. The problem, and Mercedes’ trouble resolving it, has effectively turned many pre-season predictions on their head.

There was a sense that even an all-conquering Mercedes would soon boil over with issues between the hungry-as-ever Hamilton and the ambitious Russell.

But it has turned out, so far at least, that the drivers have been remarkably cordial in an underperforming car - a cordiality that is by no means guaranteed through the best of times, let alone when the going gets tough.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Granted, it has helped that the Mercs are still enjoying the good fortune that only champions are routinely awarded.

Hamilton swooped to a podium finish on the opening weekend amid a Red Bull disaster before Russell, who kept his nose remarkably clean in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, enjoyed a third-placed finish in Melbourne after a kind safety car and both Carlos Sainz and, again, Max Verstappen forced to retire.

Since that race, 37-year-old Hamilton has posted merrily about his time surfing with the eager Russell, a scene Netflix will have been desperate to stick on next year’s Drive To Survive series.

The veteran has spoken in glowing terms about the job his teammate is doing, in particular for “grafting away”, Hamilton and his machine-like focus coming to seriously respect a hard working and selfless colleague in the Valtteri Bottas mould.

Russell has insisted their chumminess will sustain through this tough spell, stating after the Australian Grand Prix that: “Lewis and I have no interest in battling it out for P5, P6.”

There is a hint of irony at Russell’s downplaying of fifth-placed finishes as F1 heads to Imola, where the young Brit suffered a 200mph shunt with Bottas last year before complaining that the then-Mercedes driver had no business stoutly defending a meagre ninth place - something he later apologised for.

There is, of course, a clear sense that this burgeoning partnership is yet to face its toughest test, presuming Mercedes do get their act together.

But the team can be satisfied that, even while failing to deliver on their drivers’ demands on track, Hamilton and Russell are buddying up to get on with the job.

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