George Russell was probably the only Mercedes man to leave Jeddah with a smile on his face. The very young English driver, in his first year in a top team after his long career in Williams, was the protagonist in Saudi Arabia of an important, regular, consistent performance, managing to maximize the somewhat fluctuating and “hidden” potential of the disappointing W13.
Russell raced with enthusiasm and nastiness, managing to safely hoist himself into fifth position, the maximum result for the current Freccia d’Argento, third force somewhat detached from the impregnable Red Bull and Ferrari. Mercedes is a single-seater that would seem (with these gentlemen here the conditional is a must) conceptually wrong, suffering too much resistance to advancement and presenting an excessively accentuated dolphin effect due to the whims of the fund, with the team that to obviate the too many hopping is forced to lift the machine off the ground, with obvious loss of performance.
A difficult situation, in which in Saudi Arabia Lewis Hamilton is totally shipwrecked, lost in the desert of a group center that does not belong to him, with the first positions transformed into the mirage of a very thirsty but tired champion, at the mercy of the waves (in the literal sense ), inexplicably limp in qualifying, less convinced and convincing than Russell in the race.
If you give a hepta-world champion accustomed to driving wonderful single-seaters a nervous and underperforming car, he will probably feel lost, perhaps unmotivated; who knows that Luigino will not be wondering if he has taken the avenue of the sunset, that sporting twilight that sooner or later arrives relentless for everyone. With what spirit – after the painful defeat in Abu Dhabi 2021, with related controversies – will Hamilton be able to restart elbowing in back-up positions? How much will his class, his determination, his irreducibility be worth, with no prospect of victory?
The situation on the other side of the pits is in fact the opposite. Russell is a young man who for the first time drives a car that can go steadily in the points; for him Mercedes is still a big step forward compared to Williams, it is a matter of perspective. Accustomed to rowing against the wind with a single-seater on the lower side of the grid, the diabolical and fussy George can “exploit” this discreet car to become familiar with the noble areas of the standings and to establish himself within the team.
The afflicted and often too sarcastic statements of a Hamilton who is often critical of the team are counterbalanced by the confident and constructive, positive words of Russell. Which after all has a career ahead of working with Mercedes on a winning project. Hamilton, on the other hand, is hunted by the passing of time and by a thirst for revenge that threatens to remain a strangled scream in his throat, and the comparison with Russell is likely to be much harder than expected.