Herbert sees 'mighty tussle' between Hamilton and Russell

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Johnny Herbert sees a tight intra-team fight this season at Mercedes between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, but has tipped the seven-time world champion to come out on top.

Russell finished fourth in last year's F1 Drivers' championship, outscoring Hamilton by 35 points. However, both drivers were handled different development tasks during the first part of season as Mercedes worked tirelessly to overcome is porpoising issues.

Hamilton spent many race weekends experimenting with potential solutions and set-ups while Russell was able to put his head down and focus on his driving.

But Herbert reckons that Mercedes' weakness in the early part of the year was also a source of frustration for Hamilton and a factor that weighed on the Briton's performance.

"I think Lewis started last year probably a little bit frustrated, knowing the car wasn’t great," the former Sky F1 pundit told Total-Motorsport.com.

"I don’t think he had the right mental approach because he was probably frustrated, as a racing driver would be as a seven-time world champion, trying to get [that] eighth, which was taken away from him."

Russell was the one who delivered to Mercedes its only win of 2022, but Hamilton came into his own in the back of the season and often outperformed his teammate on race day.

Herbert is convinced the 103-time Grand Prix winner will deal with the inevitable pressure exerted by Russell and raise his game in 2023, hopefully at the wheel of a car that will allow Mercedes to fight once again at the front of the field.

"Now that opportunity has reset to get himself mentally and physically prepared," added Herbert.

"It’s a good thing, maybe for Lewis, knowing that the pressure is going to be really hot from George.

"It can be a very positive thing for a driver to know your team-mate is going to be strong, be pushed.

"You know you need to up your game straightaway. Lewis has done that in the past but he’s coming to the end of his career."

Hamilton is set to extend his stay at Mercedes, with a new two-year contract the most likely outcome of his current talks with team boss Toto Wolff.

At 38, there's no denying that Hamilton's momentum will slow and that will equate to a changing of the guard at Mercedes.

But according to Herbert, the passing of the torch at the Brackley squad won't happen this year.

"Things change as you get older and when you have a young whisperer coming in, who’s hungry for that success, there is going to be a crossover at some point," explained the three-time F1 winner.

"Will that be this year? I would be surprised.

"But I think it’s gonna be a mighty, tight tussle with George very hungry to try and take the reins away from Lewis, who won’t give up very easily as well. That’s what we want."

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