Former F1 World Champion Damon Hill has backed Lewis Hamilton to edge George Russell in the battle between the two Mercedes drivers in 2023.
Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton's teammate at Mercedes last year, and surprised many by finishing ahead of the seven-time World Champion in the points standings.
Russell also took Mercedes' only win of an uncharacteristically poor 2022 season, emerging victorious at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
However, Hill cited Hamilton's greater experience and his upbeat pre-season comments as a key factor in helping the elder Briton get the better of his younger teammate.
"George is as mild-mannered and respectful as they come, but when the prize is so big, when it is that thing you have been working towards your entire life, elbows inevitably get sharper," Hill told The Daily Telegraph.
"If I was forced to back one of them, I'd probably plump for Lewis on the basis of his greater experience and the fact he appears to have his mojo back, especially if he sniffs a victory. He looks and sounds in great shape.
"Certainly I think George would have to do something more than he did last year to get the better of his teammate again. But it's doubtful we have seen 'peak George' just yet."
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Hill added that the hitherto friendly relations between Hamilton and Russell would be severely tested if the two find themselves competing against each other in a front-running car.
"If Mercedes do get their act together, the attention on Lewis and George is going to go into overdrive," said Hill, who won his only F1 World Championship title in 1996 after a season-long battle with Williams teammate Jacques Villeneuve.
"Last season they neatly avoided any run-ins by virtue of being in the trenches together. But if they have a winning car, that is when things get serious."
Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth analyse where each of the F1 teams stands after pre-season testing.