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Mercedes

Herbert: Wolff will pit Russell and Hamilton against each other

Whilst Lewis Hamilton shared some positive words about George Russell joining Mercedes in 2022, questions remain over how this new line-up will work out for the Silver Arrows. Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert believes that the two drivers could be pitted against one another.

Interview
To news overview © Mercedes

The announcement of George Russell's switch to Mercedes in 2022 seems to have left Lewis Hamilton unaffected for the time being. Hamilton has been positive about Russell and has spoken of how he is especially happy to see a young talent driving for a top team in Formula 1.

Still, the big question is how things will work out for Mercedes next season. Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were good friends for years, but that friendship did not last, particularly when Rosberg took the F1 World Championship in 2016.

In that intense season, the Silver Arrows' Team Principal, Toto Wolff, had Rosberg and Hamilton fight each other. This resulted in a number of incidents between the two F1 drivers, such as their infamous clash at the Spanish Grand Prix in the same year.

It was on that day that Max Verstappen took advantage of the crash between the two and claimed his first Grand Prix victory on the Barcelona circuit. After the tensions of 2016, Wolff announced that he no longer intended to put two top drivers next to each other in his Mercedes team.

However, Wolff now seems to have changed his mind, as Mercedes have opted to pair Hamilton and Russell in 2022. Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert is relishing the prospect, although the Briton is not yet sure whether Wolff will actually let the teammates race against each other.

"Wolff obviously doesn't want the drivers to fight each other, but at some point you won't be able to avoid it. I am looking forward to Russell and Hamilton fighting each other. It will be very interesting to see how that fight will go and what Wolff will do when the two drivers fight each other," Herbert said in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com.

"Russell comes across as calm and as a driver with a lot of confidence, so that looks good. Therefore the ingredients are there to do well. But still, things are different now, it's not like Bahrain (when he stood in for Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix due to the World Champion having coronavirus).

"When he started there, it was a one-off and now he will have to perform constantly. He has to do that at the side of a great driver like Hamilton, who, like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, has the mindset that he is the very best driver. That's just in the characters of the names mentioned.

"Lewis always wants to prove himself and he will continue to do so. That's why he will definitely fight George. He will not give an inch to his new teammate. He is like Verstappen and the other top drivers, they always want to win. That's why we have to see if Russell is going to do well against Lewis.

"It's going to be very interesting to see how the first races of the season are going to go next year. Is Russell going to put Lewis under pressure or is it going to be the other way around? Because then the psychological battle also starts for the drivers themselves and I'm really looking forward to that."

With some certainty, Herbert revealed he has the expectation that Wolff will actually let his drivers race against each other in the end.

"I hope and expect that Wolff will let the drivers race against each other. Wolff couldn't look away from the current situation either, you know that at some point you will have two strong drivers in your team again," added Herbert.

"It was the same in Williams' peak years, Frank Williams and Patrick Head always pitted the strong drivers against each other. Wolff may be known as a control freak, but I think he will pit his drivers against each other."

It's time for the latest episode of our new Formula 1 podcast, with F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discussing the fallout from a dramatic Italian Grand Prix weekend.

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