(Reuters) – George Russell has nothing to lose in moving from Williams to Mercedes next season, future Formula one team mate Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.
Russell, 23, will be replacing Finland’s Valtteri Bottas alongside the seven-times world champion and fellow Briton at the dominant team of the last seven years.
“George is coming in to learn from the team but he’s got everything to gain. There’s no real negative for him coming in the team. It’s all a plus,” Hamilton, 36, told reporters at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
Hamilton has a record 99 wins, 101 pole positions and a string of other records as the sport’s most successful driver of all time.
If Russell prevails, it will put even more of a shine on the youngster’s talents. If Hamilton wins out, it is only to be expected.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc compared the situation to when he arrived at Maranello as a fresh, young team mate to four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, then the main man at the Italian team, and eclipsed him.
“I think this is a pretty similar situation to mine when I arrived in Ferrari with Seb by my side,” said the Monegasque, now the team’s big hope for the future.
“It’s a great position to be. George is very, very talented and he will be next to one of the best in the history of the sport.
“So he doesn’t have much to lose, which is a good position to be in. He can just give it everything and show his talent and I’m pretty sure he will show the world his talent.”
Russell said it had been made clear to him by Mercedes that he would be on level terms with Hamilton, despite having only stood on the podium for the first time in a farcical Belgian Grand Prix last month.
Asked whether he felt he could beat Hamilton, Russell replied: “Naturally, I believe in myself and I have high aspirations. But equally I know just how tough it’s going to be.
“I’m in one of the most fortunate positions on the grid to be able to go out there and learn from him. I see this partnership with Mercedes as a long-term thing and I need to use next year as an opportunity to learn everything I can.
“We all know how strong Lewis is and in my opinion he’s probably the greatest driver of all time.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)