Russell out-qualified and out-raced Hamilton in Jeddah a fortnight ago, having outperformed him throughout 2022 too.
Hamilton claimed his teammate’s choice of setup in Jeddah was “luck” but, responding ahead of this weekend’s F1 Australian Grand Prix, Russell said: “I don’t think there’s any luck in it at all.”
Craig Slater said on Sky: “This is a big subplot this year. Hamilton was outscored last year by Russell – that’s only happened twice before in his career, being outscored by a teammate.
“Jenson Button once, and Nico Rosberg did it in fortuitous circumstances when Lewis had a lot of reliability problems.
“Russell out-qualified Hamilton in Jeddah by four tenths of a second. That’s a big gap between teammates.
“Maybe that stung Lewis a bit.
“Lewis said that if he had the same setup as George, or if he hadn’t made a setup mistake, he wouldn’t just be matching George’s pace, he’d be beating it. Maybe a subtle implication that he’d be ahead.
“George, I think, is standing his ground. Resisting the notion that it was only his setup, or only the fortuitous way that the two garages went with how they angled the wing of the car on the day.
“He has to say that. He can’t just admit that, if everything were equal, Lewis would be beating him week-in week-out.
“He’s got to assert himself, without being disrespectful to Lewis, which I don’t think this.
“He can’t just be the makeweight in that team. He’s got to stand up for his own prospects at Mercedes.”
Slater asked Chandhok: “Interesting comments from Russell today, saying it was good preparation, and not luck, that allowed him to out-qualify Hamilton in Jeddah. How will remarks like that go down with Lewis?”
Chandhok answered: “He might actually agree. I’m a firm believer in this sport that there’s no such thing as good luck. There is only good preparation.
“George was alluding to the same fact.
“You get bad luck sometimes when things break.
“The reality is that teams have to put in the groundwork.
“Lewis never got to a point in Jeddah where he was happy and comfortable in the car. He was working on his side of the pits as hard as George, I’m sure.
“But he never found the sweet spot, as George did.
“That will be a bit of a concern.
“The track in Melbourne was modified, it’s quite a fast layout, not as fast as Saudi Arabia. Still pretty quick. The demands of the car aren’t a million miles away from what we saw two weeks ago.
“Lewis and his engineers will be hoping to correct whatever issues they had last time out.”
Mercedes’ W14 have come under intense scrutiny, even before the first race of 2023.
Team principal Toto Wolff insisted the entire concept would need to be reconsidered.
Although fighting Red Bull in Melbourne might be too ambitious, Russell has claimed that Mercedes’ latest developments have been a major step in returning them to the front of the grid.