According to Jenson Button, George Russell and Lando Norris will appear on the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix under “a lot of pressure” as the two British drivers face intriguing battles with their teammates.
But while Russell will have to show what “he’s really got” against a seven-time world champion, who experts predict will be hungrier than ever before, Norris is pitted against a rookie driver.
Last season, Russell beat Hamilton in the standings to take Mercedes’ only victory of the season, P1 at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Russell downplayed that performance despite being only the third teammate in 16 seasons to finish ahead of Hamilton.
“For me, this victory in Brazil was more important than the points classification,” he told Auto Motor und Sport. “At the end of the day, nobody remembers me beating Lewis on points. I only finished fourth, so no man’s land.”
Button, however, is one of the people who remembers that he scored better than Hamilton last season.
“George is in a very different situation to Lando because George has the experienced teammate and the guy who has achieved more than all of us, so it’s harder for him because he will be under pressure this year,” said the 2009 world champion told Metro Sport via NU.
“The first year in the team it’s like, ‘Well it’s Lewis’ team, expect to make mistakes and sometimes not be that fast'” but he outperformed Lewis all season so there’s a lot of rest pressure on his shoulders to show what he really is. got.
“But I think he can handle it. He seems very strong, he’s got his head sewn on, he’s good at understanding his strengths and weaknesses and has pre-meetings meetings about that meeting! He works hard and I’m watching looking forward to that fight.”
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Button has warned Russell to expect Hamilton to come out “stronger” and “hungier” after last year’s defeat.
“If you beat Lewis in a race one weekend, he comes out stronger the next weekend, so I’m not worried that Lewis won’t bounce back,” he added.
“He ended the season very strong. He didn’t win in Brazil like his team-mate, but there were reasons for that. I think he’ll figure it out, I really do.
‘He’ll be more hungry. He had so many years of winning championships, winning races, last year would have been a real hit for him. A bull’s eye, really because it’s something he’s not used to – not being at the front, not even fighting for podiums, so that was a surprise.
“But midway through the season he performed like the Lewis we know, so he will be fast this year and that will put pressure on his team-mate George.”
As for Norris, there is also pressure from a teammate, but it comes from a newcomer, not a seven-time world champion, and one who has something to prove himself given his journey to the F1 grid.
“It’s very different with Lando,” Button continued. “A new man has come in, younger who is very fast.
“The pressure is on Lando and [Oscar] Piastri also because he was thrown into the deep end in a team that is relatively competitive with an extremely fast driver.
“It’s a sink or swim situation for him, so I’m looking forward to the dynamic between the two and to see who comes out on top.”