Helmut Marko thinks George Russell may give Max Verstappen boost in Lewis Hamilton fight

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Lewis Hamilton will team-up with George Russell next season after the 23-year-old put pen-to-paper on a deal with Mercedes earlier this year. Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas at the Silver Arrows, with the Finnish driver moving to Alfa Romeo.

Russell’s arrival at Mercedes has been widely lauded thanks to his impressive displays for Williams.

But Red Bull chief Helmut Marko thinks it could actually play into the hands of Max Verstappen.

“I first have to see how fast Russell really is,” Marko said when asked if Russell could steal points away from Hamilton next season.

“In qualifying, he was fast last season. But in the races, he was hardly superior to Nicholas Latifi. So we have to wait and see how fast he’s going to be in the race.

“If he can indeed match Hamilton’s speed, that could be an advantage for us.”

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Russell spent three years with Williams and impressed behind the wheel, especially during qualifying.

He made four Q3 appearances during the 2021 season and started on the front row at the Belgian Grand Prix in August.

The youngster tasted his only podium finish of the season on that occasion as he was beaten only by Verstappen in wet conditions as the race was cut short and half points were awarded.

Mercedes initially signed Russell as a junior driver in 2017 and have supported his progress at Williams.

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The driver previously won the Formula 2 title in 2018, before making his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2019.

He has already raced in an F1 Grand Prix for Mercedes in the past after he was called up to replace Hamilton in Bahrain last year when the 36-year-old was struck down by COVID-19.

Russell will become Hamilton’s sixth team-mate since the seven-time world champion joined Mercedes in 2013.

“It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands,” Russell said after the new partnership was announced in September.

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“But I’m under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge – it’s going to be a steep learning curve.

“It’s a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands.

“My target must be to reward the trust that Toto [Wolff], the team, and the board have placed in me by ensuring I play my part in continuing that success and I want to do my new team-mates proud.

“Of course, one of those new team-mates is in my opinion the greatest driver of all time.

“I’ve looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts and the opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being.”

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