George Russell warns Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen of early season threat

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Mercedes star George Russell has told Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen that they may be sprung a few surprises in the opening races of the season. New F1 rules come into play this year in an attempt to make the sport more competitive. Constructors have been battling with the reduced cost cap and tighter regulations to try and get the edge over their rivals.

Mercedes and Red Bull are expected to dominate again with Hamilton looking to get revenge on Verstappen for last season’s controversial ending.

The Brit will have added support in 2022 as rising star Russell has earned a big promotion from Williams.

However, the 23-year-old thinks some of the “underdogs” many clinch victory early on in the season.

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“I’m really excited to see the new cars and what they offer for everybody,” said Russell.

“That is really exciting, but also I am looking forward to being part of the development of a car that will be progressing drastically throughout a season, working with the designers, working on the simulator, putting lots of work into progress.

“I am sure it won’t necessarily be who is quickest at race one will win, and I am sure there will be some interesting designs out there and might be some underdogs who prevail in the opening tests or races.

“It is whoever develops the fastest, whoever develops the best and to build those foundations for the coming years.

“That is a side I am really excited for from an engineering perspective.

“And then obviously teaming up with Lewis is obviously incredibly exciting. I am in a privileged position to be in to go alongside the best ever.

“It is an amazing opportunity to again progress myself as a driver and see how I fare.”

Russell would have won the Sakhir Grand Prix when he deputised for a Covid-stricken Hamilton in 2020 but for a late tyre failure.

The youngster has shown plenty of promising signs that he has the pace to challenge those at the front of the grid.

And Red Bull chief Helmut Marko reckons that could be good news for his team as any win for Russell means lost points for Hamilton.

“I first have to see how fast Russell really is,” Marko told Gazzetta dello Sport. “In qualifying, he was fast last season. But in the races, he was hardly superior to Nicholas Latifi. So we have to wait and see how fast he will be in the race.

“If he can indeed match Hamilton’s speed, that could be an advantage for us.”

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