1992 F1 champ Nigel Mansell sees an opportunity for George Russell, as Lewis Hamilton has not “dusted off his right foot yet”.
Following the controversial conclusion to the 2021 season, which saw Hamilton miss out on a record eighth World Championship on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi season finale, the Brit went into 2022 as a favourite to get that eighth title in the bag.
However, that possibility already looks to be off the table by the summer break, Mercedes having fallen adrift of Red Bull at the start of Formula 1’s new regulatory era, with Ferrari assuming the role of main challenger to Red Bull.
Hamilton also has a new team-mate for this season in the shape of Russell, who claimed his first career pole last time out in Hungary, also Mercedes’ first pole of the season.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Russell sits P4 with 158 points to Hamilton’s 146.
Hamilton’s form has picked up in recent races, the seven-time champ currently on a streak of five podium finishes in succession, but Mansell does not believe that Hamilton has unleashed maximum attack on the throttle yet this season.
“I like both George Russell and Lando Norris,” said Mansell in an interview with Adrian Flux.
“I think the opportunity that George has cast on the fact that Lewis hasn’t decided to dust off his right foot yet.”
While laughing, Mansell added: “I think he’s taking it easy.”
Nonetheless, Mansell praised Russell for the job he is doing at his first season as a full-time Mercedes driver, and Norris too over at McLaren.
“He [Russell] is doing a great job and I think Lando when the car is performing, he’s put some great results in.
“I think what we’re seeing is jockeying for position with the constructors, how competitive from one race to another they are. And you know, one minute you think, for instance, McLaren are up there again, they’re going really well. And then the next race they’re back down here.
“I think at the front, you’ve got the three protagonists at the front again, you’ve got, Ferrari, you’ve got Red Bull, and you’ve got Mercedes.
“And you might have one other occasionally jockeying for trying to get on the podium, but it’s those three main manufacturers that have got it taped.”
Nigel Mansell believes driver needs backing of main manufacturer now to reach top
Continuing on the theme of those three outfits being the leading trio of Formula 1, Mansell explained his belief that the “entrepreneurs of the past”, who could find success on comparatively small budgets, are no longer viable in the series.
To Mansell’s mind, the backing of a major manufacturer is now the only chance.
“When I was driving with the late, great Colin Chapman, Colin took me under his wing, like a father figure for me,” said Mansell.
“And I’ll never forget, in the early 80s, he was saying he runs a whole team of personnel, it was 100 people going to all the races around the world, paying the salaries of the drivers and everybody, it was certainly less than three million pounds a year.
“The whole face of Formula One has changed, and unless you have a major manufacturer behind you, the entrepreneurs of the past, they don’t exist anymore, you have to be a big manufacturer spending lots of money.
“In Formula One, to catch up, when you fall behind the curve to be competitive, you have to almost spend more and work harder and jump that curve just to actually try and catch up and compete on the same level. And so, it’s really tough for the lower teams who don’t have the budgets.”
The Classic will be held at Silverstone across the weekend of August 26-28 and will feature a host of attractions, including Mansell’s F1 world title-winning car from 30 years ago being part of an interactive display.
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