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Does Russell still have to prove himself alongside Hamilton at Mercedes?

Damon Hill has claimed that George Russell needs to ensure he is considered as a "valued asset" to Mercedes. But does Russell still need to prove himself at the squad?

Former Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill believes George Russell still has to prove himself to Mercedes. The British driver joined the Brackley-based outfit last season after a three-year education in the championship with Williams, but was faced with an uncompetitive car under F1's new technical regulations. "George has to work very hard. He has to make himself a valued asset of the team and he's obviously doing that really well," Hill told the F1 Nation podcast. "Mercedes know that given half a sniff of a chance, Lewis [Hamilton] is going to be back on top form and can deliver those extraordinary races. They know that George can do that too. But he has yet to prove all that." Mercedes have since been playing catch up to Red Bull with their struggles continuing into the new campaign and, whilst Russell's full potential at a top team is yet to be uncovered, is Hill's claim that he has more to prove to his team fair?

Stunning streak suggests Hill claim harsh

On the face of it, Russell is up against a seven-time World Champion in Hamilton and, with the car unable to challenge for a title in his first season, has not shown the top-level performances needed to prove his worth. But this is an extremely harsh view to take when accounting for the performances of the W13 and its successor, the W14. A look at the 2022 season shows Russell outscored Hamilton by 35 points, secured Mercedes' only pole position of the year in Hungary and claimed the Silver Arrows' only victory of the year in Brazil, in what was the team's only bonafide opportunity to better Red Bull and Ferrari. These were not one-off performances, with Russell's incredible run of top-five finishes only ended last year in the Turn 1 melee at the British Grand Prix. In fact, the Mercedes finished outside the top five on only two further occasions under his guidance, finishing 14th in Singapore and eighth in Japan.

Leadership burden

So what exactly has Russell got left to prove? There is no doubt that a second season finishing ahead or on a par with Hamilton would underline his position within Mercedes. But nobody can cast a shadow over Russell's ability to take advantage of opportunities, given his performances last season. If there were question marks, then one could look back at his performance when standing in for Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, where a maiden victory was only denied by a Mercedes pit-stop error and a subsequent puncture. An argument could be had as to whether Russell possesses the ability to lead a team forward once Hamilton passes on the mantle. But again, his career to date suggests this should not be a worry. Despite his youth, Russell has taken on the burden of being a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, whilst his time at Williams proved he had what it takes to galvanise a workforce when helping push the Grove-based outfit from a barren run into a points-scoring outfit. It seems likely that the former F2 Champion will have to wait until Mercedes can emerge as a championship force again. For now, Russell must continue on his current curve and establish himself as one of F1's brightest talents.

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