George Russell has proved to Mercedes he’s their next Lewis Hamilton after Imola GP

Mercedes: What’s gone wrong at the F1 and can they recover?

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George Russell is proving to Mercedes he’s ready to be the long-term heir to Lewis Hamilton. While Hamilton endured another weekend to forget, finishing 13th in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Russell ended P4 to continue a strong start to his career with the team.

The Briton, who joined Mercedes at the start of the season following three years on loan at Williams, is the only driver on the grid to manage a top-five finish in all of the first four races of the 2022 season.

Russell ended P4 in Bahrain and then was fifth in Saudi Arabia, before managing a first Mercedes podium when he ended third Australia. Finishing fourth in Imola leaves him on 49 points, 21 ahead of team-mate Hamilton.

“After Friday, probably not. After the sprint, definitely not,” said Russell when asked if he’d have believed it had he been told earlier in the weekend he would finish fourth. The 24-year-old had started down in 11th but produced a superlative drive to rise seven places. He leaves Italy fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and is only 10 points off of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who has won two races.

Russell has eked out those results despite the fact Mercedes have endured massive struggles with their performance this year. Rivals Ferrari and Red Bull both have significantly faster cars, with some suggesting Mercedes might even go the full season without a single race win.

The W13 is a car that even the great Hamilton is struggling to master. Team principal Toto Wolff dubbed the Mercedes challenger “undriveable” in conversation with Hamilton on the team radio after the seven-time world champion ended outside the points.

But that has not prevented Russell from showing points-scoring consistency. He has outperformed an underperforming car in the same way he did with Williams and deserves immense credit for it given this is his first year with the team, not his 10th like his team-mate.

Former Silver Arrows driver Nico Rosberg noted: “Remember, Russell is fourth with the same car, so Lewis definitely had a big role to play in that poor weekend. Russell still managed to get fourth out of it, so there was more in that car.”

And that Russell is doing so well in spite of the porpoising and pace problems speaks volumes of his talents. And it certainly bodes well for his long-term future at the team. Russell is viewed as the man to be Mercedes’ No 1 driver once Hamilton, now 37, eventually retires. And on this basis, he will be just that. He has taken the step up in his stride.

With a better car at his disposal, he can be in the mix with the likes of Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. That may still yet come this season. Make no mistake though, as Mercedes seek to better understand their car race by race, Russell will continue to pick up plenty of points in the meantime. 

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