George Russell says Lewis Hamilton will come back stronger than ever from his tough start to the 2022 season, despite the seven-time World Champion having already counted himself out of the title race.
Hamilton finished outside the points at Imola and nine places behind his younger teammate Russell after a race spent amongst the midfield pack.
Mercedes are now third in the Constructors' standings, with Russell having contributed 49 points of the team's 77 won so far.
"Lewis is going to come back incredibly strong, I have no doubt. He's definitely going to be pushing me all the way," said Russell, speaking to members of the media including RacingNews365.com.
"I think it's just how things fall out sometimes in a race weekend. I made a very strong start; I don't know what happened to him at the start.
"I expect him to come back so strong. The way he is pushing and motivating the team is inspiring. I'm not getting comfortable with this position, because I know what he's capable of."
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Russell: It doesn't feel like a proper racing car
After the race, Toto Wolff took to the team radio to issue a public apology to Hamilton, during which he described the W13 car as "undriveable".
Once again, it was porpoising that proved to be Mercedes' downfall, with their car bouncing badly down the Imola straights and through the high-speed corners.
The team also struggled with tyre warm-up, especially on Friday, with the track temperature as low as 13 degrees Celsius.
"We are struggling equally," continued Russell, keen to stress that he has not stolen a march on Hamilton.
"When the car is so far out of bed and it's not in the right window, it doesn't really feel like a proper racing car to drive."
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