Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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Toto Wolff has suggested that Nico Rosberg’s bitter rivalry with Lewis Hamilton during their time together at Mercedes will help the team to gear up for the potential signing of George Russell next season. The latter is widely expected to replace Valtteri Bottas at the Silver Arrows at the end of the year after establishing himself as one of the grid’s most talented drivers at Williams.
Russell has never been outqualified by a Williams team-mate during his time in F1 and looks set to fight for world championship titles in the near future.
He was drafted in to replace Hamilton at Mercedes at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix and excelled in the quickest car on the grid.
A race win might have been on the cards if a botched pit-stop and an unfortunate slow puncture did not ruin his chances of a maiden victory.
Russell has since managed three point-scoring finishes at Williams and earned his first podium with a second-placed effort in bizarre circumstances at last week’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Speculation over an impending move to Mercedes has been rife for a number of months, and it could soon be decision time for Wolff with just ten races left until the end of the season.
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The 49-year-old has been inundated with questions about the respective futures of Russell and Bottas in recent weeks and was quizzed on the prospect of a switch once again at Zandvoort on Friday.
Wolff admitted that his experience in dealing with the frosty relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg will come in handy if the seven-time world champion finds himself in a title fight with potential team-mate Russell over the coming years.
“All personalities are different, and also the situation between the two team-mates is also the people and their past,” the Mercedes boss told Sky Sports F1.
“Something we have learned, I personally have learned, on the Alain Prost situation with Ayrton Senna. I spoke to Prost about it and was learning on the job with Nico and Lewis.
“If we were to run in a situation that we have drivers battling it out there then I think we can benefit from the learning.”
Hamilton and Rosberg fought tooth and nail for race wins and titles between 2013 and 2016, with their close friendship transforming into a bitter rivalry that grew toxic at times.
The tension came to a head during their final year as Mercedes team-mates, when Rosberg pipped Hamilton to the Drivers’ Championship title on the final day after a series of spats and accidents between the pair.
It remains to be seen if the veteran 36-year-old will come to blows with Russell if the Williams man is chosen to replace Bottas at the end of the season.
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When quizzed on the prospect of a future rivalry with Hamilton earlier this week, Russell declared that he would be more than up for the challenge of taking on arguably the sport’s greatest ever champion in the same car.
“I feel absolutely ready,” he told F1-Insider.com. “I’m still improving all the time, but I feel well prepared for the world championship fight.
“These three years at Williams taught me so much. How to deal with disappointment, but also with a racing car that is difficult to drive.
“I’m ready – and want to race for victories and world titles!”
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