Mercedes’ George Russell choice goes down ‘like a lead balloon’ with Lewis Hamilton

F1: George Russell hikes during the off-season

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Toto Wolff is set to hand George Russell the keys to a Mercedes F1 car for 2022, with the Silver Arrows impressed enough to bring the young Briton in to replace Valtteri Bottas. However, Lewis Hamilton is said to be rather unhappy with the decision, and would prefer to keep his long-time team-mate around.

The seven-time world champion has made no secret of the fact he would like to see his partnership with Bottas extended, as he has enjoyed extraordinary personal success while racing alongside the Finn.

But Mercedes have decided to try something new, perhaps encouraged to make a change and try something new now Red Bull are breathing down their necks in the constructors’ standings.

Hamilton is said to have reacted poorly to the news.

Sportsmail reports: “Toto has made up his mind to bring in George. Lewis has been told and he’s not happy.

“He wanted Valtteri as a team-mate because he is compliant and not quite quick enough to trouble him, but that’s not what is happening.

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“You could say, as far as Lewis is concerned, it’s gone down like a lead balloon.”

Wolff has said he wants to make sure both Bottas and Russell’s futures are set in stone before announcing anything, though that day may be closer now Kimi Raikkonen has confirmed his retirement from F1.

The 2007 world champion leaves an empty space at Alfa Romeo, which Bottas is expected to fill once his Mercedes departure is finalised.

Russell’s move to the Mercedes would create an exciting all-British pair at the Brackley-based team, with the 23-year-old tipped to be able to rival Hamilton for the title in a more competitive car than his current Williams machine.

This assumptions are correct if the Belgian Grand Prix weekend is anything to go by.

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We will never know how the race would have gone if weather conditions had allowed for one, but a stunningly quick lap from Russell in Q3 saw him start on the front row for the first time in his Williams.

With the race itself a washout and the decision made to award half-points, Russell collected his first podium in F1 to cap off a weekend in which he outqualified Hamilton in a much slower car.

The potential for friction between Hamilton and Russell is there as both will be hungry for success in 2022.

It could be reminiscent of the infamous 2007 rivalry between Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren, a year in which they were both ultimately pipped to the post by Raikkonen in his Ferrari.

But Russell has claimed he would not put personal ambition above the interests of the team.

“My ambitions and goals are incredibly clear and I want to become the F1 world champion, but I would never put my own agenda or my own goals above the team no matter who my team-mate is,” he said.

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