F1: Mercedes' Russell says he'll start on equal terms to Hamilton

The 23-year-old Briton will be Hamilton's third team mate at Mercedes and the first pairing with Nico Rosberg, who won the 2016 world championship.

File Photo: George Russell has nothing to lose in moving from Williams to Mercedes next season, Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.   -  Getty Images

George Russell said he would start on equal terms with seven- times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season but played down the prospect of friction between the two.

The 23-year-old Briton will be Hamilton's third team mate at Mercedes and the first pairing with Nico Rosberg, who won the 2016 world championship, descended from warm friendship to glacial.

"I am definitely going on level terms," Russell told reporters at the Italian Grand Prix, the first race since the announcement.

"That was made very clear to me. Mercedes are always respectful in that regard to give both drivers the best opportunity."

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Russell is replacing Valtteri Bottas, the Finn heading to Alfa Romeo next season and a comfortable team mate for Hamilton since 2017.

Bottas also was assured of equal status but has effectively played a supporting role to Hamilton, the most successful driver in the history of the sport.

That has suited Mercedes well enough, with the team winning the last seven drivers' and constructors' titles and wary of returning to the sort of friction-filled set-up of the Hamilton-Rosberg years.

"I think Mercedes have had clear experience of a poor dynamic within the team, and they have made it absolutely clear that they don’t want a repeat," said Russell. "On a personal level as well, I don’t want that either.

"Lewis and I are at very different stages of our career, which I think also helps.

"I have a huge amount of respect for him, just being so much younger and sort of looking up to him as a young karting driver changes that dynamic a lot, too. I don’t see there being any issues at all."

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Asked whether two race drivers of equal ability could be team mates without polemic, he added: "I think so...there is no reason why there would be any falling-outs or anything. I'm sure we're going to race each other respectfully but hard at the same time, as Lewis and Valtteri have over the past five years."

Russell has nothing to lose: Hamilton

George Russell has nothing to lose in moving from Williams to Mercedes next season, Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.

"George is coming in to learn from the team but he's got everything to gain. There's no real negative for him coming in the team. It's all a plus," Hamilton, 36, told reporters at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

Hamilton has a record 99 wins, 101 pole positions and a string of other records as the sport's most successful driver of all time.

If Russell prevails, it will put even more of a shine on the youngster's talents. If Hamilton wins out, it is only to be expected.

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Ferrari's Charles Leclerc compared the situation to when he arrived at Maranello as a fresh, young team mate to four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, then the main man at the Italian team, and eclipsed him.

"I think this is a pretty similar situation to mine when I arrived in Ferrari with Seb by my side," said the Monegasque, now the team's big hope for the future.

"It's a great position to be. George is very, very talented and he will be next to one of the best in the history of the sport.

"So he doesn't have much to lose, which is a good position to be in. He can just give it everything and show his talent and I'm pretty sure he will show the world his talent."

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