Lewis Hamilton gives telling response to question on Mercedes team-mate George Russell

Lewis Hamilton appeared hesitant when asked if George Russell could become Mercedes’ lead driver once he leaves for Ferrari.

The Silver Arrows know they’ll have a new face in the team from next season with Hamilton due to depart. The Brit has been their lead driver for over a decade, helping them claim huge success, but Russell is now tipped to take on the void left by Hamilton.

The pair have been team-mates for two seasons and replacing Hamilton’s role is the natural progression for Russell. Ahead of the 2024 opener in Bahrain this Saturday, the seven-time world champion was quizzed on whether his team-mate would step up but didn’t given an entirely convincing answer.

He said: “I’m sure he can… I don’t know what else to say about it. George is very technical, massively engaging and has come a long way since joining Williams and then joining the team. He’s incredibly close with Toto. No doubt that will be his position.”

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Russell has claimed the only Mercedes win of the past two seasons, leading home a 1-2 at Brazil to claim what remains his only F1 win. He struggled to build on that last season however as Hamilton convincingly proved he was the team’s elite driver, which was reflected in the standings.

Mercedes’ Hamilton replacement could yet be telling on whether they see Russell as their team leader. There is talk of youth prodigy Andrea Antonelli getting a call up whilst others have speculated that Fernando Alonso could be offered a chance to extend his career.

Toto Wolff has said on the team’s possible direction: “In the same way we embraced the Nico [Rosberg, retiring suddenly in 2016] situation, I’m looking forward to taking on his challenge with my colleagues. Maybe it’s a chance to do something bold.

George Russell will be racing alongside Lewis Hamilton for the final season
George Russell will be racing alongside Lewis Hamilton for the final season 
Getty Images)

“If you’d told me two days ago that Lewis would go to Ferrari I wouldn’t have believed you. Things can change quickly. Contracts can change. Who knows what might happen in the driver market.”

The Mercedes boss has also hinted that Russell can fill the void left by Hamiltion: “George has the potential to be the next lead driver in the team. He is of the generation of Lando [Norris] and [Charles] Leclerc and some of the others. I couldn’t wish for a new team leader when Lewis leaves, no doubt about that.”

Mercedes have struggled to compete for race wins across the last two seasons with Ferrari and Red Bull both notably quicker. In testing it appears as though the Silver Arrows may have closed the gap, but before the season opener they still look to be playing catch up.

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