Gerhard Berger believes it's only a matter of time before George Russell unsettles his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Amid the troubles impacting Mercedes' new-generation car, Hamilton and Russell have yet to join the battle at the front between Ferrari and Red Bull.
Both drivers have scored a podium each in the first four races of the 2022 season, but Russell leads his teammate in the Drivers' standings by 21 points.
But teamwork rather than opposition is on both driver's agenda as they work together to help Mercedes improve the depressed performance of its W13 Silver Arrow.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff described the productive collaboration between the two drivers as "one the few highlights" enjoyed by the Brackley squad so far this season.
But Berger believes the partnership between Russell and Hamilton will be disrupted by the former at some point.
"He will soon get on Lewis’ nerves,” Berger said, quoted by Speedweek.com. "Russell was one of the outstanding drivers at Imola. Like Lando Norris and Max Verstappen."
At the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, both drivers qualified outside of the top ten. But a remarkable opening lap on race day by Russell immediately placed the Briton among the top five while Hamilton remained bogged down in the thick of the midfield for the duration of the event.
Berger believes Russell and Hamilton are currently racing with very different levels of motivation due to Mercedes' woes.
"It’s quite simple: Russell risks more because he’s younger," the former McLaren and Ferrari driver told Auto Bild.
"If Lewis were fighting for victories, he would also drive more with the knife between his teeth. But when it comes to 13th place, that understandably no longer makes sense for him."
Nevertheless, Berger reckons that Hamilton is still fueled by the objective of winning a record eighth title in F1.
"Lewis’ goal is to become the sole record holder with an eighth title," said the Austrian.
"This goal slipped out of his hands in dramatic circumstances at the last second in Abu Dhabi in December. But I think he’s still working on it. Even if it doesn’t happen until next year.
"For me, Lewis is still the most complete driver of all in terms of the combination of pure speed and experience."