Hamilton expecting Russell 'heat' in 2022, won't push for lead driver status

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Lewis Hamilton is expecting George Russell to "bring the heat" when the pair become Mercedes teammates in 2022.

After three increasingly impressive years at Williams, the King's Lynn native has finally got his chance at a leading team in Formula 1 next year, replacing Valtteri Bottas who is off to Alfa Romeo.

The decision has surprised some because Hamilton was a staunch supporter of his current teammate, who he called the best of his F1 career, and there is a fear Russell's arrival could lead to some tense battles within Mercedes.

“That’s not really my style,” Hamilton said on if he would try and use his influence to be the designated lead driver.

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“I think ever since I joined this team, I remember joining in 2013 and I remember saying to Ross [Brawn, former Mercedes boss] that I just want equal opportunity.

“I think that’s the most rewarding position to be in because if you do the work and you do succeed you know you’ve done the job against whoever it is at their best.

“Winning when someone’s wings are clipped, that’s not something that interests me, so that was never a thought.”

When it comes to their partnership, Russell has maintained he wants to maintain the harmony Hamilton enjoyed with Bottas since 2017.

But the seven-time world champion is also well aware that the 24-year-old won't want to hang around.

“Naturally, he’s part of that young group,” Hamilton said. “The young talent that’s coming through is so great for the sport and the future of the sport.

“I think new fresh blood in our team is going to be great because I’m the oldie there, and I think that definitely will energise the whole team knowing that they have a new youngster coming through who is super hungry, driven and will be pushing the team forwards.  

“I’ve watched George come through Formula 3, Formula 2 and of course I have watched a lot of the racing he has done and moves he has done, and there’s no doubt he is incredibly talented.

“I’ve not looked into detail where he is weak, that’s not something I put much energy towards. I just know he will continue to get stronger, even in these next nine races, and next year he will be bringing the heat for sure.”

Hamilton though would end by paying tribute to Bottas and their five-season partnership.

“It's been amazing,” he said. “I've thoroughly enjoyed it, it's been an amazing journey. I've earned a friend through the time and we've helped the team achieve four world titles during that time.

"He has been the best teammate I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

“Obviously we're still trying to close out on a high, but I'm also just really excited for the next chapter in his life. Everything that we've grown and learnt together, he will continue on growing and improving.”