George Russell has been backed to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton "from the start" of their spell as teammates, as Mercedes bring in a new driver for the first time since 2017.
Hamilton spent the last five seasons racing alongside Valtteri Bottas, with a harmonious relationship between the drivers helping Mercedes to extend their run of Constructors' success to eight successive years.
However, team chiefs opted for a change in 2022, promoting Russell to the works team after three campaigns at the Mercedes-powered Williams team, where he caught the eye with his stellar qualifying efforts.
"Russell can beat Hamilton from the start"
So far, all the public signs have pointed to harmony remaining at Mercedes, with Hamilton welcoming Russell into the team and Russell repeatedly stressing his respect for "the greatest of all time".
But ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher, who watched last week's Mercedes W13 car launch with interest, reckons the situation could be different when the track action gets underway and the heat of battle takes over.
"I found it interesting how gentle the two drivers were with each other," Schumacher is quoted by SpeedWeek.
"Young Russell was already very careful with his comments and emphasised that he wants to learn quite a lot now. The tone was very different back then when George replaced Hamilton in Bahrain 2020 and drove alongside Valtteri.
"But I'm convinced that internally it looks different, and I already believe he can beat Lewis from the start."
Mercedes have a "super" driver line-up
Nonetheless, Schumacher thinks Mercedes' driver line-up is now one of the best on the F1 grid, and still wonders why it took the team so long to promote Russell into a seat alongside Hamilton.
"I think Mercedes has a super line-up now," Schumacher added.
"I never quite understood why it took so long to replace Valtteri. I think George is an exceptional talent. Whether he will develop like Lewis did remains to be seen.
"We also have to remember that Lewis is 37 years old and Mercedes has to think about the future."
Video: Are Mercedes playing it safe with the W13 reveal?
Mercedes showed off two different versions of the W13 during their 2022 car launch, with some key differences between the digital and physical models.