Russell Says Hamilton Exit Will Give Mercedes Fresh Start

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Suzuka, Japan: George Russell believes Mercedes can start with "a fresh sheet of paper" without Lewis Hamilton and says their relationship has improved since his Ferrari-bound team-mate announced he is leaving after this season.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton made the shock announcement in February that he is quitting Mercedes after 11 years to replace Carlos Sainz at Ferrari.

Mercedes have yet to name Hamilton's successor but Russell will remain with the Silver Arrows next season.

The 26-year-old British driver told AFP that he thinks the move will be good for Hamilton and will also allow Mercedes to move on.

"I think a change for him is positive, a change for us is positive," he said ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

"It's a fresh sheet of paper. Sometimes when you have so much success from the past, you're leaning on all of the experience of those winning days.

"But the days today are different."

Russell said he was "surprised, same as everyone else" when he heard about Hamilton's move, but he thinks the early announcement has brought "clarity" to the situation.

He said Hamilton's impending exit has done nothing to weaken their working relationship.

"If anything, I could argue that things are better, to be honest," said Russell.

"Of course, we're in a different situation but I think Lewis has been very rational and constructive and objective when we're talking with the team, with the feedback.

"That's only a positive," he said.

Title ambitions

Several drivers have been linked with a move to replace Hamilton at Mercedes next season.

Red Bull's triple world champion Max Verstappen is reportedly top of team principal Toto Wolff's wish list.

Highly rated young Italian F2 driver Kimi Antonelli and Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, have also been mentioned.

Russell said he has "made my preference clear" to Mercedes chiefs and believes he can become world champion with the team.

"I believe in Mercedes, I believe in myself," he said.

"It's a long journey but I believe we'll all get our chance at one point."

Mercedes have endured a poor start to the season, with Wolff saying "nobody feels positive" after both cars failed to finish the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Hamilton had engine failure while Russell escaped unscathed from a heavy crash late in the race as the team finished out of the points for the first time in 62 races.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso was penalised for his part in the crash after stewards found he had made a potentially dangerous move with Russell behind him.

Russell said not punishing the Spaniard would have "opened up a can of worms for the rest of the season".

"We're role models to the younger generation of drivers, and I think it would have been the wrong message," he said.


The Peninsula

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