Daniel Ricciardo has given his backing to George Russell. One of the biggest talking points in F1 is whether Lewis Hamilton would have had the same success if all of the cars were equal. Mercedes have dominated motorsport’s premier competition for the last seven years winning the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship.
Hamilton levelled Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles this year without a substantial challenge to his throne.
Max Verstappen claimed 90 per cent of the F1 field would be able to win the Championship if they had Hamilton’s car.
His theory was put to the test when George Russell, who had not won a single point all season with Williams, stood in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell finished second in qualifying but quickly overtook team-mate Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap and led for the majority of the race. A devastatingly double-stacked pit stop and a late puncture denied the 22-year-old the first victory of his career.
But Russell’s performance appeared to prove Verstappen right in that anybody can dominate in Hamilton’s car.
However, Renault ace Daniel Ricciardo reckons a lot of Russell’s joy came from his own performance and not his machinery.
“It’s hard to know how good they are until they step up towards the front of the grid – not only to see if they are fast enough but also if they can handle the pressure of being up at the front,” said Ricciardo on the In The Fast Lane podcast.
“George didn’t need to get pole [in Bahrain] to kind of prove he’s got the talent, but he was so close.
“I think the more impressive thing for him was to get a good start, get into the lead and control a big part of that race. That’s where he really earned his stripes.
“I think he proved that yes, the car is amazing and whatnot, but he proved he is certainly the real deal. He’s one of those younger kids that I think has now proven himself.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted that Russell’s performance has catapulted him into the driving seat to replace Hamilton or Bottas in the future.
Earlier this season Verstappen threw shade on Hamilton’s achievements.
“I have a lot of respect for what they’ve achieved,” he said. “I’m not frustrated about Lewis in a Mercedes car.
“To be honest, 90 percent of the field could win in that car. Nothing against Lewis, he’s a great driver, but the car is so dominant.
“OK, maybe others wouldn’t be as dominant as Lewis is, but you accept the situation you are in and you just try to make the best of it.
“I’m not frustrated, I’m more focused on what we can do to try and beat them.”