Lewis Hamilton has opened up on how “stressful” he found the 2022 Formula 1 season alongside team-mate George Russell at Mercedes.
After experiencing a toxic three-year spell battling for the World Championship with childhood friend-turned-foe Nico Rosberg, the arrival of Valtteri Bottas in 2017 marked the return of a more cordial working environment at the Brackley squad.
Hamilton and Bottas combined to extend Mercedes’ dominant run in the V6-turbo-hybrid era to an unprecedented eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships.
However, Bottas was replaced last year by Russell, who was promoted to the senior outfit after three years with Williams.
Amid Mercedes’ slump in the new regulation cycle introduced last year, Russell recorded Mercedes’ only pole position and race victory through the entirety of the campaign, beating Hamilton in the standings by 35 points.
Hamilton has revealed how last year took a toll on him, comparing the situation Russell encountered to the one that the seven-time World Champion found himself in alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007.
“I would say last year, totally transparent, for sure I felt it,” he said in an interview with M4 Sport.
“George had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If he finished behind me they would say ‘well you finished behind a seven-time world champion’ and if he finished ahead then ‘you’re a legend’.
“I know exactly what that feeling was like, and I had exactly the same with Fernando.
“If I finished behind him they would say ‘we expect that it’s your first year’ and if I finished ahead of him, I was great. But of course, when you’re then struggling with the car and not feeling you’re able to extract your full potential it was not easy – it was stressful.”
While Russell maintained the upper hand across the first four qualifying sessions of this year, Hamilton has not been defeated in the traditional qualifying format since Mercedes bolted conventional sidepods onto its W14 from the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 103-time F1 race winner has also defeated his younger team-mate in every race bar one and scored four podiums to Russell’s one to open up a 49-point advantage in the Drivers’ standings.
“This year I don’t find that at all and I feel back in the swing of things,” he added.
Hamilton has also accrued Mercedes’ sole position of this year when he landed top spot in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
However, the German marque is still waiting to land a victory this season, with Hamilton defeated in the race by Max Verstappen and Red Bull, who have taken victory in all 12 races to take place in 2023.
Verstappen’s second successive triumph at the Hungaroring ensured Red Bull beat McLaren’s previous all-time F1 record for the most consecutive victories by a team.
The Austrian outfit currently retains a 256-point lead over Mercedes, with the Silver Arrows 51 points clear of Aston Martin.