Tost: Russell 'already stronger' than Hamilton at Mercedes


AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost believes George Russell is "already stronger" then Lewis Hamilton, and insists the young Briton will be Max Verstappen's toughest opponent next season along with Charles Leclerc

In a year for Mercedes dominated by the porpoising and aerodynamic troubles that impacted the team's W13 silver arrow, Russell concluded his first campaign with the Brackley squad fourth in the Drivers' standings or two spots ahead of Hamilton.

Russell also scored in Brazil last month Mercedes' single win of the year, which was also the Briton's maiden Grand Prix victory.

However, while Russell outscored Hamilton in the first part of the season, the seven-time world champion was also put to contribution by his team during that period as he took on an active role in helping his engineers unravel the complexities and mysteries of Mercedes' bucking bronco.

Nevertheless, next year Tost sees Russell joining Leclerc as Verstappen's biggest challengers.

"Such superiority as shown by Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing this year is rather rare," Tost told Speedweek.

"[In 2023] I expect a three-way battle between Max, Charles Leclerc and George Russell, who is already stronger than Lewis Hamilton."

Looking ahead at Red Bull Racing's prospects, Tost expects the Milton Keynes-based outfit to suffer somewhat from the reduced wind-tunnel time imposed on it by its top-spot classification in F1's Constructors' standings but also by the FIA for its breach of the sport's 2021 cost cap.

"The FIA penalty will have a negative impact on Red Bull Racing, no question, even though the team has some of the best technicians," Tost said.

"But I trust Red Bull Racing to be able to fight for the world championship title again."

Next year, Tost will be managing a new line-up at AlphaTauri, with rookie Nyck de Vries replacing Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly alongside Yuki Tsunoda.

The young Japanese charger will head into his third season in F1, and Tost is expecting a strong campaign from the 22-year-old.

"Yuki Tsunoda has developed reasonably well, was able to improve and was faster than Pierre Gasly in the final qualifying sessions," Tost said.

"How much he can improve will depend on him alone. I’m already expecting a strong 2023 from him."

As for Gasly, asked how his former driver will fare alongside Esteban Ocon at Alpine, Tost said: "At the beginning of September it became clear that Gasly would switch to Alpine.

"He’s now very experienced, but in Esteban Ocon he’ll have a strong partner who already knows the Alpine team and the car very well.

"We’ll see how quickly he integrates there."

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