By James Broughton, September 6, 2022
Jacques Villeneuve believes George Russell is fast becoming the natural team leader at Mercedes F1, at the expense of his more experienced teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton. Of the races Russell and Hamilton have competed together, it is Russell who has the upper hand in recording more podiums and scoring more points. Russell currently lies 4th in the driver’s standings with 188 points in the bag compared to Hamilton who resides somewhat in frustration in 6th and 30 points behind Russell.
Hamilton has upped his qualifying pace of late and is starting to use his skills to close in on Russell like a sniper hunting for wild beasts. However, a DNF at the Belgian Grand Prix didn’t help Hamilton’s cause. At the Dutch Grand Prix Hamilton was on course for a possible win, Russell it seemed was just off the pace.
Hamilton was leading the Dutch Grand Prix on merit when a virtual safety car was called, which may have compromised his race. This was followed by a full safety car period which potentially overturned the hard work. Instead of pitting for a fresh set of tyres under the safety car, Hamilton stayed out.
Russell made the call to his team to pit for a set of softs, and with 12 laps to go Hamilton turned from race leader to becoming a sitting duck. Verstappen swept past him at the re-start, Russell followed soon after, and then it was Charles Leclerc’s turn to take his slice of the podium cake.
Fortunately for Hamilton, his set of very used tyres had enough life in them to maintain 4th position and keep at bay the threat behind him. Jacques Villeneuve believes Russell earned his second-place finish with a well-timed if risky strategy call by reading the race ahead of time.
Writing in his column for Formule1.nl, Villeneuve wrote:
“George Russell is quickly developing into the leader of the team. He took the decision to go for the soft tyres himself. Hamilton, with all his experience and championships, could have done the same.”
Villeneuve also criticized Hamilton for his radio outburst to his team as he dropped downm to 4th:
“I was astonished by Lewis Hamilton‘s outburst in the race and especially by the way in which he did it. He was aggressive, almost insulting. It’s good that he apologised, but this does not befit a champion. After everything the team has meant to him, you shouldn’t speak to them like that.”