David Coulthard believes that George Russell's inexperience at the front of the F1 field is likely to mean he will get beaten by Lewis Hamilton, even if Russell proves a match for Hamilton in terms of outright pace.
Former F2 champion Russell steps into a Mercedes seat alongside Hamilton for the 2022 season, with many expecting a tense battle between the veteran seven-time F1 title winner and the young, eager upstart.
Russell fared very well when he replaced an unwell Hamilton at Mercedes for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, outpacing teammate Valtteri Bottas and fighting for the win until a late puncture ruled him out of contention.
Hamilton is yet to confirm for definite that he will continue in F1 in 2022, as rumours swirl about his future after the dramatic events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP season finale.
Russell "in for an awakening" alongside Hamilton
Coulthard doubts that Hamilton is weighing up whether or not to continue based on the threat posed by his new teammate, arguing that Hamilton could have made it a condition of his new two-year contract that Valtteri Bottas be retained – Bottas being released by Mercedes and joining Alfa Romeo for this season.
"I think George will regularly match Lewis, and outqualify him," Coulthard told The Telegraph, when asked how Russell might fare against Hamilton.
But the Scottish ex-F1 driver turned broadcaster reckons Russell is in for an eye-opening year alongside Hamilton, as his lack of experience at being an F1 frontrunner will trip him up on occasion.
"I also think George is in for an awakening," Coulthard said. "He's still a puppy and puppies occasionally pee on the carpet."
"Huge shoes to fill at Mercedes"
Coulthard's sentiments were echoed by 1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti, who feels that Russell has a huge task ahead of him to even match the achievements of his predecessor, let alone Hamilton.
"He has some huge shoes to fill! Not only vis-a-vis Lewis, but also vis-as-vis Valtteri, who was a strong, valuable teammate," Andretti told RacingNews365.com in an exclusive interview.
"We have seen what George did in Bahrain, on a one-off situation, so you would expect that he will show really strong [performance].
"But we always wait to see. You can draw a lot of conclusions, but until it's proven... Sometimes it's a one-off that really works out and then when you're really in there it becomes a little more difficult."
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