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Lewis Hamilton will have a new team-mate this year after George Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes team. And Silver Arrows chief Toto Wolff has aimed a dig at Bottas by suggesting their new driver can help the team move to the next level.
Hamilton and Bottas had raced alongside each other for five seasons before the Finnish driver’s departure was announced in September.
The Briton won four F1 championships during that time and was cruelly denied a fifth last year following a controversial end to the season in Abu Dhabi.
The arrival of prodigy Russell could provide Hamilton with the catalyst he needs to land a record eighth title.
And Wolff believes Mercedes now have the perfect pair of drivers at their disposal.
“This year we are in an interesting situation with George, a rising star, and undoubtedly the best driver ever in the other seat.
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“The dynamics are new and that’s something we want to steer in such a way that it’s going to have the most positive effect on the development of the car.
“It’s fundamentally different from what we’re used to. Only when we race against each other will we see if it gets easier or not.”
Russell initially joined the Mercedes junior programme as a teenager in 2017 and illustrated his promise by delivering the F2 title the following year.
After impressing as a reserve driver for the Silver Arrows, Russell joined Williams ahead of the 2019 F1 season and ended up spending three years with the team.
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He secured his first podium at last August’s Belgian Grand Prix and made a real name for himself thanks to his imperious displays.
And Wolff has already made it clear exactly what he thinks of the 24-year-old.
“He has been a winner in every racing category – and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1,” Wolff said last year.
“Now it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time.
“I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years ahead.”
Meanwhile, Wolff believes Hamilton has finally put the disappointment of last season behind him and is set to return to the track better than ever.
“I think adversary has always made him stronger and more determined,” Wolff said this week. “This is the attitude I feel in him now and the mindset I see in the team.”
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