Davidson: 'Understudy' Russell can't ignore Mercedes hierarchy

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Sky F1 consultant Anthony Davidson says George Russell is still the "understudy" relative to Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, and "can't argue against" the hierarchy that exists within the team.

Russell was promoted last year to his plum seat at the Brackley squad and made the most of the team's struggles with its first-generation ground effects car, outscoring Hamilton by 35 points and delivering to the team its only race win of 2022.

This season, Mercedes still hasn't recaptured its winning momentum as its W14 has been no match for Red Bull's dominant RB19, while Russell has been outperformed by his illustrious teammate who now holds a 75-point advantage in F1's Drivers' championship.

After a lean period over the summer, Russell has upped his performance in the last few races, and the young Briton even got his elbows out against Hamilton at Suzuka recently.

Davidson notes that while things are getting tight between the Mercedes contenders, Russell is maintaining a calm and respectful demeanor.

But deep down inside, the competitive and talented 25-year-old is likely fuming according to the ex-F1 driver.

"There’s definitely a hierarchy in that team," Davidson told the Sky Sports F1 podcast. "And rightly so.

"You know, Lewis has earned that status in that team as a seven-time world champion, and George can’t argue against that.


"George is still the understudy, and he’s doing a very good job on those occasions where he’s got the speed over Lewis to really take the fight to him.

"But he’s doing it in such a George Russell polite way, which is quite humorous to watch, because I know inside the car, he’ll be fuming and steaming.

"And that’s why we see the near misses, the drivers coming, almost to blows, almost to contact, but then he’s a good boy on the radio, he’s very British about it.

"And there are layers to him, to the annoyance, I think. It always comes over as: ‘I’m okay with this, but if you could please, very thankfully, let me through with the next couple of opportunities, it’d be much appreciated.’

"And we’d hear maybe a bit more vocal if things were different. But I think for now, I think he knows where he is in the team."

Hamilton and Russell will live with each for at least two more seasons, and Davidson says he is "really intrigued" to see how the interaction and the inner team fight between the Mercedes pair evolve in the years ahead.

"He [Russell] knows he’s got the speed. We all see it as well from the outside. Lewis is getting his elbows out when he needs to," Davidson said.

"I’m really intrigued by this battle and watching George develop as a driver and watching Lewis in his latter years in his career.

"Watching this young, hard-charging driver in George, really threatening him for speed and consistency, and it’s great to watch Lewis getting stuck in as well."

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