Hamilton said he was impressed by Russell’s performance in qualifying last weekend, when the Williams driver pipped him to a place on the front row of the grid in a very wet qualifying session.
“I honestly think he’ll be good,” said Hamilton when asked by RaceFans about Russell’s likely arrival at Mercedes. “I think George is an incredibly talented driver, clearly. I would say probably the only highlight from last week was his qualifying lap, it was amazing.
“I think he’s humble, I think he’s got a great approach. Naturally being British I would imagine probably helps in terms of communication.
“At the moment naturally I have to be super-supportive of the team mate I have right now so that’s why I’m always supportive of Valtteri because we have a job to do right now. Neither of us can win the team championship alone, we have to do it collectively.
“I think he’s one of the members of the future of the sport. I think he’s already showing incredible driving so far and I’m sure he’s going to continue to grow so where better to do it than in a great team like this or what team he goes to.”
Russell’s consistently strong qualifying performances and shock second place at Spa have marked him out as a star of the future. Hamilton also sees him that way, but denied he is concerned about going up against the 23-year-old.
“It’s not like I haven’t been proved [myself]. I raced against some incredible drivers as team mates. In my rookie year I was alongside Fernando [Alonso]. I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove.
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“I’m in a different place in my life. I’m excited to see the youngsters coming through – it’s not that I want to lose to a youngster, naturally, but I am excited to see the progression of the sport. I am a fan of the sport at the end of the day.
“You’ve heard me earlier on in the year talk about Lando [Norris], it’s encouraging to see these youngsters come through. They’re fierce. I see a lot of myself in this younger generation. They’re what the sport’s going to be relying on moving forwards. There’ll be things that we learn from one another.”
Hamilton had an increasingly fractious relationship with his first Mercedes team mate, Nico Rosberg, which ended when his former karting rival quit F1 unexpectedly after winning the 2016 world championship. That led the team to hurriedly promote Bottas from Williams.
However Hamilton is confident he can have a positive relationship with Russell if he joins the team next year.
“It’s important that, naturally, respect is always there and communication will be at the core of that. We’ve got an amazing setting at our team in terms of morale, in terms of our processes and how the team put their arms around the two drivers and that’s why we have harmony in our team. I think we are so much better prepared than we were in previous years so it doesn’t really worry me.”
Russell’s role as a substitute for Hamilton at least year’s Sakhir Grand Prix will make it easier for him to adjust to the team, the world champion believes.
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“When you start with someone new it takes time. Even when we have a new engineer or a new mechanics it take a moment for them to gel in.
“But George has already been on the circuit with us, he’s already done a race with the team, he’s already been in the background while Valtteri and I have been working in the past. So I think he knows the environment well.
“But my focus right now is me and Valtteri have a job to do and I’m proud to work alongside Valtteri. I think he’s a decent human being and I think that’s at the core of the respect I have and on top of that he’s a close competitor. He never gives up, keeps pushing and he’s helped me deliver these championships with the team. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
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