Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer has conceded that George Russell has given a good showing of himself this year, but feels that the moment Mercedes will be ready to challenge for the title, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will be prioritised.
As things stand, Russell has had an incredibly consistent season and currently stands 15 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
However, Hamilton has showed plenty of resolve in recent weeks. It is fair to say that the gap has a lot to do with how well Russell performed in the early part of the season coupled with Lewis’ failure to hit the ground running.
Hamilton is now a regular feature on the podium and many expect this trend to continue in the final two races of the season.
Palmer believes that Hamilton has shown enough resolve to prove that he is indeed still Mercedes’ main man.
“I imagine George will close it out, just by sheer numbers,” Palmer said regarding Russell’s chances of finishing above Hamilton in the final drivers’ standings.
“There’s only two races left and if he just manages to keep this consistency, he’ll be there.
“But I think that doesn’t really tell the picture of the Mercedes story.
“I think George has been impressive, if he beats Lewis it will be an amazing achievement, but I do think the more the season’s gone on, the more Lewis looks like Lewis again.
“At the start of the year, there was a really odd moment where everyone was a bit perplexed [thinking] ‘is George Russell, gonna outdo Lewis Hamilton?’ and for the first six, seven races, it was looking that way.
“As the season’s gone on, I think Lewis has got on top and I think if they do have a title-challenging car next year, I still think Mercedes will back Lewis to be their man.”
Damon Hill still believes in Hamilton’s skill
This sentiment was echoed by former world champion Damon Hill, who spoke about how Hamilton’s innate talent was bound to shine through after a rough start to the season.
“When it comes to the race itself, Lewis is nearly always a faster driver over the distance. I think that’s interesting,
“The younger drivers tend to be really quick over the one lap but the more experienced drivers, you look at Fernando [Alonso] in the races he’s incredible. He’s still creaking in qualifying, but they have this understanding of how to eek time out in a race.
“Quite often Lewis is still creeping ahead of George in the last few races. He’s [Russell] done an incredible first season with Lewis but in some ways you could say he was fortunate not to get Lewis on top form at the start of the season.”
This season marks the first time in nine years that Mercedes has missed out on the constructors’ championship.
Palmer argued that when Mercedes is ready to challenge for the title again, they will shift their main focus on Hamilton.
“So when the Mercedes car seems a bit absent through a weekend, it’s very close between the two, often George can be ahead. That’s certainly how it was at the start of the year.
“But every single time we’re looking at maybe Mercedes can win this race, as the race is unfolding, it’s only Lewis.
“That’s maybe just a little bit of experience still for George when the car’s at it’s best to maximise it. I’m sure he’ll improve as well next year but that’s where I still think Mercedes feels Hamilton’s ahead, even if the points don’t show it.”
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