ANALYSIS: George Russell Won't Be Another Hamilton Wingman
With George's move to Mercedes confirmed, we debate if George takes on a role of wingman like Bottas or breaks the mould
With George Russell's long awaited move to Mercedes confirmed, a myriad of speculations are currently going around, most prominent of which is what kind of role George will take on at the Silver Arrows.
George is Mercedes's long term driver who will have the team built around him post-Hamilton, this makes his role more than just a second driver. George is the future number one driver, he is the next Hamilton to Mercedes. This is crucial because in George Russell, Wolff knows he has the potential future for his squad, and while all his rivals had long since put in place their succession plan, Mercedes had risked being left behind. Red Bull and Ferrari were first to jump with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, and McLaren joined the party a tad later with Lando Norris. Mercedes have always done things differently but this is a scenario Mercedes must follow along with their rivals because they need to establish a driver to built themselves around once their shining star Hamilton is gone.
A big part of this involves keeping a sweet relationship with George. George is still young so if things go bad, other long term career options are available so Mercedes will want to keep him sweet to stay. Part of this is letting him live up to the hype in the public and himself about this Mercedes drive, and to do that Mercedes need to let him win. Every F1 watcher will notice if George is compromised by his team and so will he so it is essential Mercedes do thing fairly, not just for driver morale, but for public perception too. Another part of keeping him sweet is giving him hope, so after three years at Williams, Mercedes had to take the jump sooner rather than later, otherwise it would seem like a never ending prophecy for George, which explains why the move was made now.
After the rough seas of Rosberg, Mercedes wanted a relaxed environment and this needed a chill driver. Because of this, Bottas was going to be a wingman from the start and with Lewis on championship winning form and after the situation with Rosberg it was clear Mercedes were going to do things differently and in the end this meant letting Lewis do what he wants. Now though, Mercedes have their future to play for and they were keen to maximise the opportunity of having Russell alongside Hamilton in terms of the young Briton’s growth. He now has at least two seasons (Hamilton’s current deal expires at the end of 2023) to learn from arguably the greatest driver of all time.
George's longer wait at Williams meant George could learn leadership at the slowest team in the sport and play a pivotal, central role in moving them up the grid, it would provide the foundation of the team leader he needed when Lewis Hamilton finally hung up his helmet. Its as simple as that. Mercedes need to keep Russell happy and driving well because unlike Bottas, Russell is Mercedes's post Hamilton driver not really just a second driver.