Russell on verge of becoming third star to accomplish Hamilton feat

Lewis Hamilton opens up on difficult season for Mercedes

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Mercedes newcomer George Russell is on the cusp of becoming just the third F1 driver to pip Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship while on the same team. If the 24-year-old notches just two more points in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, he will also become the first driver to achieve the feat in their very first season driving alongside the seven-time world champion. 

Exactly how Russell would stack up against F1’s heavyweights was still something of an unknown quantity at the start of the year. The Norfolk-born star received his call-up to the Silver Arrows after spending three years struggling towards the back of the pack with Williams. 

The youngster wasted no time in flexing his muscles. Hamilton finished ahead in the season’s curtain-raiser but Russell would come out on top for the next eight consecutive Grands Prix, allowing him to build up a healthy lead over his more experienced team-mate in the standings. 

Despite Hamilton’s notable improvement over the second half of the season, Russell thrashed out his maiden career win and Mercedes’ first of the season last weekend by clinching top spot in Brazil. He is currently fourth in the championship, 25 points ahead of Hamilton with just one race remaining. 

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Even if Hamilton produces a win and pockets the bonus point for registering the fastest lap at Yas Marina, Russell would make sure of his status as top dog in the Mercedes garage by finishing P9 or better. That would thrust the former Williams man into territory that only two other F1 drivers have been in before. 

Right from his rookie year in 2007, Hamilton has proven a tough customer to beat while driving the same machinery. Reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso was his first team-mate at McLaren and the pair finished level on 109 points, a haul Kimi Raikkonen bettered by one to win the title. 

Hamilton then dispensed with team-mate Heikki Kovalainen in 2008, finishing with almost double his points total to win his first championship. The Brit finished fifth in 2009 but remained comfortably ahead of the Finn, while he also pipped Jenson Button the year after, following his move from Brawn. 

In 2011, however, Button would become the first of Hamilton’s team-mates to come out on top over the course of a season, although both McLarens were a long way behind Red Bull’s eventual champion, Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton restored his position by beating Button the following year, and his stint at Mercedes began in 2013. 

In the nine completed seasons since, Nico Rosberg is the only other F1 driver to have come out on top while part of the same team. The German did so in style, too, by winning a dramatic championship battle in 2016 that was ultimately decided by just five points. 

Rosberg’s replacement, Valtteri Bottas, spent five years in Hamilton’s shadow before making way for Russell at the start of the season. With just two points needed to join elite company in Button and Rosberg, Russell can afford himself a pat on the back if he remains ahead after the chequered flag falls in Abu Dhabi. 

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