George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Russell will be hoping to build on his decent start to the Formula 1 season, which has seen him climb to fourth in the overall standings. He is more than 40 points behind leader and Hamilton rival Max Verstappen, and precariously just a point off Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in fifth. This weekend will be a chance for Russell to improve on his two podium finishes thus far, as he and Hamilton continue their attempts at reviving the Mercedes season.
Much was made of Russell’s move to Mercedes, after team bosses confirmed his move from Williams last year.
Yet, for much of the hype that has surrounded the move, some were critical, including former Formula 1 racer Jolyon Palmer, and commentator Jack Nicholls.
Both described their surprise at Mercedes’ Russell decision, noting they would have actually attempted to sign up fellow Briton Norris instead.
The 22-year-old drives for McLaren, and last year finished sixth overall, some nine places higher than Russell’s position.
But speaking on the BBC’s F1: Chequered Flag podcast last year, Nicholls noted that going for Russell may be a bad decision.
He said: “If I’m Mercedes… and I have a free choice in that second seat alongside Hamilton, I think I’m picking Norris over Russell after this year.”
Palmer agreed, adding: “The way that he held off Lewis Hamilton at the end of that Sochi race until the strategy and the tyre choice got away from him, was unbelievable.
“For a guy that has never won a race, to have a seven-time World Champion breathing down his neck in a Mercedes, then it starts raining, and he’s still off the road a couple of times, scrabbling around.
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“But keeping Hamilton, we all know how good he is in the wet, behind him, it was really legendary stuff I think from Norris.”
Many pundits claimed Norris was set to struggle in 2021, particularly as Daniel Ricciardo, a winner of numerous Formula 1 races, had joined the British team.
Yet, Norris finished a whopping 45 points clear of his teammate, leaving Palmer to consider him a contender to be amongst the top tier of racers currently on the circuit.
He continued: “I wonder if Norris this year has put himself in the top bracket? Alongside Lewis and Max potentially.
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“When you look at the job he has done against Ricciardo.
“Even in the last races Norris was quite a way ahead of Ricciardo, he just had really bad luck on the closing stages, otherwise he would have had fifth in the Championship.
“And this is Ricciardo, seven-time winner now an eight-time winner, this is a guy that everyone thought could be a champion in the top car, but Norris has done such a great job.”
But Palmer noted that British racing could see another period of domination in the sport, with three Britons battling it out at the top of the standings.
The former racer even described how the outcome of the US Grand Prix, where Britain had three drivers on all three podium finishes, could occur again.
In that 1968 race, Sir Jackie Stewart finished first, followed by Graham Hill and John Surtees.
He added: “We could see some British podium lock-outs next year.”
“Mercedes duo and Lando Norris if McLaren can be resurgent.”
Hamilton, Norris and Russell would take that in Baku.
Today’s race begins at 12pm today.
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