Russell says Mercedes can't afford any driver friction


Basking in his promotion to Mercedes for 2022, George Russell is keenly aware of the heightened sense of expectation on his shoulders as he becomes Lewis Hamilton's team mate.

There's been speculation that the 24-year-old will be eager to make his mark and take the fight to Hamilton, risking a costly internal clash between them as happened between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in 2016.

But Russell insists that this won't happen, and that he is aware there is too much at stake as Mercedes try and use the sport's new rules and regulations to wrest the initiative back from Red Bull.

“Lewis and I need to work together," he stated emphatically on Friday at the launch of the team's new W13 contender for this year's campaign.

"We can’t focus too much on each other because things are constantly changing and that’s why we need to take a step back," he continued. “We hear rumours from all of the other teams of how much they’re developing.

"F1 developed this rule-set with the idea that they were going to be around four seconds slower, but we’re already hearing from every single team they’re far, far faster than that.

“We hope Mercedes will still be the fastest team, the fastest car on the grid but there are no guarantees," he said. "We need to not be naive to that, and work together to ensure that we are."

Team principal Toto Wolff also said that a harmonious atmosphere between the drivers and within the team as a whole was top of the list for 2022.

"I have no doubt that we can create an environment of partnership between the two, of productivity to develop this new car which will be essential, whilst maintaining a healthy competition that will motivate them and the wider team."

Mercedes-AMG F1 W13 E Performance Launch - Steve Etherington

It was Russell who had the honour of being first behind the wheel when Mercedes followed up the formal car launch at Brackley with the first shakedown of the W13 at a windblown Silverstone in the afternoon.

“It almost brings me back to my roots," he beamed. "A cold, wet, windy day at Silverstone - but here with the Mercedes F1 team!

"This morning it gave me goosebumps when the car was fired up for the first time," he added. “I’ve driven so many laps in the simulator, had so many drawings of it, so many meetings about it. But there’s nothing like going to a race track.

Russell said that it was far too early to get a full sense of the car's potential, especially when the flat, exposed circuit was being buffeted by Storm Eunice - the biggest storm to hit England in 30 years.

"If you take the exact same car when there’s no wind and then you put it in 100km/h winds, it’s going to feel very difficult to drive!" he pointed out.

"It certainly wasn’t easy out there in the conditions, but it was in line with what we saw on the simulator," he noted. “I’ll be going back and correlating this afternoon, but it's going to be a constant learning process.

“We’re all going to take today with a pinch of salt," he summarised. He added that the aim was to "get through the programme, make sure the car runs okay, make sure the drivers are comfortable."

Russell explained that the aim was to be "in the best spot possible ahead of Barcelona", with all teams heading to Spain later this week for the first official pre-season test.

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