‘George Russell even better against Lewis Hamilton than Nico Rosberg was in 2016’

George Russell at the mic Lewis Hamilton waving. Mexico October 2022 Credit: Alamy
George Russell at the mic Lewis Hamilton waving. Mexico October 2022 Credit: Alamy

Given the manner in which George Russell beat Lewis Hamilton over the course of 2022, Ralf Schumacher believes it actually topped Nico Rosberg’s title-winning performance of 2016.

Hamilton and former Mercedes team-mate turned rival Rosberg were engaged in a bitter season-long battle that saw the German take his first World title come the end of the year, promptly retiring after he finally overcame Hamilton in the same car at the fourth time of asking.

But while Hamilton and Russell were not fighting for the title in their first year together as Mercedes struggled to match Red Bull and Ferrari, the younger Briton became only the third driver, along with Rosberg and Jenson Button, to beat Hamilton in the same car over the course of a full season.

He took his first pole position and victory in Formula 1 in Hungary and Brazil respectively, and while Hamilton’s form picked up significantly in the second half of the season, Russell held on to beat the seven-time World Champion by 35 points come the end of the year – which former Williams and Toyota driver Schumacher feels is no mean feat in itself.

“Mega,” Schumacher told Sport1 in Germany when asked about how he rated Russell and his season alongside the seven-time World Champion.

“You have to remember that he came as a young driver as a team-mate to Lewis, who was top dog in every respect.

“Still, he beat him. That gnaws at Lewis. For me, George’s performance under these circumstances is even higher than that of Nico Rosberg in 2016.”

How did George Russell match up to Nico Rosberg’s record against Lewis Hamilton?

The circumstances behind the two seasons were, naturally, completely different for Russell and Rosberg’s seasons against Hamilton – chiefly because the World Championship was not in play, but Russell’s performances, particularly in the first half of the season, were extremely impressive alongside Hamilton.

His run of nine consecutive top-five finishes showed a similar level of consistency which Rosberg had in his title-winning year, bringing the car home in as high a position as possible when things were not running as smoothly for Hamilton.

A particular stat to remember from 2016, albeit in the car the class of the field, was that Rosberg started every single race of the season from the front row – though like Russell, he also had a worse qualifying record compared to his team-mate, Hamilton winning that head-to-head 12-9 in 2016, as well as pipping ‘Mr Saturday’ 12-10 over the course of 2022.

But that consistency is ultimately what helped Russell with his points tally continually through the season. Where Hamilton and Rosberg finished 10-10 in the race head-to-head when they both finished races in 2016, Russell took a 12-10 advantage come the end of this year.

Hamilton notched one extra podium compared to his team-mate – but it was Russell who took the team’s only victory of the year in Brazil.

That win is where Russell had to show his mettle ahead of his illustrious team-mate, and he spoke of the stress of the one-on-one duel he had in the closing laps of Interlagos – calling the final 10 laps “100 times harder” than the 60 or so which preceded them – though it did not show on the day.

If these fights for wins become more regular in the future, there is no reason why Russell cannot continue to hold his own against his Mercedes colleague.

Read more: Ralf foresees Mercedes vacancy if George Russell beats Lewis Hamilton again

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