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Lewis Hamilton example pointed out as Toto Wolff answers George Russell question

Daily Express logo Daily Express 22/01/2022 Tom Sunderland

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has backed Lewis Hamilton to thrive in his new-look partnership alongside George Russell. The seven-time world champion is set for another change of team-mate ahead of the 2022 season, and his boss has suggested some among the Formula 1 community 'often wrongly question' Hamilton's talent for working alongside others.

Russell, 23, will become just the third driver to partner Hamilton at Mercedes as he follows in the footsteps of 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas.

The former Williams representative will, however, be Hamilton's first permanent British driving partner since he split up with Jenson Button and McLaren at the end of 2012.

Having ruled the roost for the Brackley-based team for so long, there have been suggestions of a potential new power struggle at the dominant manufacturer.

But the team's chief has insisted people tend to underestimate Hamilton's ability to play nicely with others, hinting he's not the egomaniac some might assume.

"The size of Lewis is often wrongly questioned," Wolff said in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, referring to the driver's competitive nature and ego.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton © Getty Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton

"Even after the events in Abu Dhabi, he immediately congratulated Max [Verstappen]. Lewis only wants one thing: fair competition on the track. We will deliver that."

Hamilton was gracious in defeat after exiting his car following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix defeat to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in December, whereby the Briton lost in highly controversial circumstances.

However, the 37-year-old could be heard communicating via team radio that he felt the race result had been "manipulated."

Russell will take Bottas' spot on the Mercedes roster after the Finn joined Chinese prospect Guanyu Zhou, 22, at Alfa Romeo ahead of the 2022 campaign.

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It can be a tracherous task balancing two top-class drivers on a team expected to challenge for the title while keeping all individuals happy with their respective roles.

Mercedes felt that conflict first-hand when Rosberg and Hamilton feuded for at least a portion of their time as colleagues, while Bottas appeared more content with his deputy status.

"I would like us to have two lightning-fast drivers driving for victory," Wolff added.

"And if not, then we need these drivers to get our car back on the winning road."

Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff celebrate © Getty Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff celebrate

Despite being pipped to the title on last season's final lap, Mercedes and Hamilton are expected to make strides towards a record-breaking eighth world title this year.

There are many who saw last season's result as the beginning of the Verstappen era in earnest, though Hamilton will surely put up a stiff challenge to reclaim the crown.

Russell is facing a substantial step up in his own prospects and is the third-favourite to be named champion after Hamilton and Verstappen (in that order).

The new kid on the block at Mercedes proved his potential with a runner-up finish at the Belgian Grand Prix last year, with Hamilton sure to help clinch any podium places to come in 2022.

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