Lewis Hamilton backed to be ‘different beast’ by George Russell once Mercedes solve issue

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George Russell has confidently predicted Lewis Hamilton will be a “whole different beast” as soon as Mercedes can wrestle their car’s performance problems. Hamilton was seen in obvious pain when climbing out of his W13 at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix due to how severely his car bounced along the long straights of the Baku circuit.

The seven-time world champion was filmed slowly getting out of his car due to his back pain. He held his back while conducting media interviews after the race and admitted: “I can’t express the pain you experience. At the end you’re just praying for it to end.”

Russell finished the race third and has now outperformed Hamilton in all of the last seven Grands Prix this season. He has three podium finishes to the Briton’s solitary third-place, which came at the season opener in Bahrain back on March 20.

Hamilton started P7 and crossed the finish line P4 in Azerbaijan but is 37 points behind his team-mate in the standings and 88 adrift of championship leader Max Verstappen. Despite Hamilton’s struggles, Russell expects to see his countryman rediscover the level that saw him clinch 17 podiums in 22 races in 2021.

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Russell said to Sky Sports F1 on finishing ahead of Hamilton seven times from eight this year: “If you’d told me that before the season started, I would’ve been very pleased and obviously would’ve taken it. Ordinarily if you finish ahead of Lewis you’ve either won the race or are guaranteed a podium.

“Things are obviously different but I know how capable and great Lewis is and once we get the car, I’m sure he’s going to be a whole different beast. We’re so fixated on trying to solve these issues.

“But we’re not fixated on trying to maximise a race weekend and focusing on our driving because there’s so many issues to think about. I’m sure once we’ve got a good car underneath us the true Lewis Hamilton will be out there and fighting strong.”

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff came to Hamilton’s defence pre-race after he qualified seventh and over a second-and-a-half slower than pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, with Russell starting fifth.

“Lewis has been trying some quite experimental parts of the car and there was a different floor solution on his car that didn’t work,” Wolff said. “I am very close to it and I see one session one is faster and then next the other is.

“And because the car is on a knife edge, if you put a foot wrong, in terms of experiments on the car – which need to be done in order for us to learn how to perform and where to put the car – there is 0.2-0.3secs immediately between them. And the last three races these experiments have gone wrong with Lewis and not with George.”

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