Lewis Hamilton all but confirmed George Russell's potential move to the Mercedes Formula 1 team for the 2022 season by claiming "he is the future." The welcome for the young Briton did come with a warning, with the seven-time F1 world champion making it clear that he has nothing to prove to the younger generation of racers.
The Williams driver is widely expected to be confirmed as Hamilton's new teammate for the 2022 season and beyond in the coming days. He will replace Valtteri Bottas, who after five seasons with the reigning champions, is expected to occupy the seat vacated by Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo next season.
Hamilton was full of praise for Russell ahead of this weekend's Dutch Grand Prix, and spoke about the younger Briton's efforts at Spa last weekend, when he qualified second on the grid ahead of the Mercedes. The reigning champion has no doubt that the Williams driver will continue to grow and sees no better place for him than the Silver Arrows team.
"He's the future," Hamilton said, as quoted on F1.com. "He's one of the members of the future of the sport. I think he's already shown incredible driving so far, and I'm sure he's going to continue to grow, so where better to do it than in a great team like this, or whatever team he goes to?"
Russell has already had a taste of the Mercedes when he subbed for Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. He was on course to take the win before a strategy error and a late tyre puncture ruined his chances. While Hamilton believes there will be a period of adaptation, he made it clear that he has nothing to prove even if Russell joins the team.
"It's not like I have anything to prove," Hamilton added. "I've raced against some incredible drivers as team mates, in my rookie year alongside Fernando [Alonso], so I don't really feel like I have anything to prove."
Being the elder statesman in the sport, Hamilton has always been appreciative of the younger drivers coming through. The Briton also believes that he can learn something from Russell if he joins Mercedes, but it is clear that both will have to respect each other for the partnership to work.
"There will be things that we learn from one another," Hamilton said. "I think it's important that... respect is always there and communication will be at the core of that."