Lewis Hamilton is on the sixth teammate of his illustrious F1 career.
George Russell is currently charged with the unenviable task of trying to better the seven-time world champion in equal equipment, and he has fared well as we approach the end of their first season together at Mercedes.
Hamilton’s previous teammates have been a mixed bag, from combative rivals to compliant numbers twos. Here, Daily Star Sport assesses all six of Hamilton’s teammates since he entered the sport in 2007, rating them out of five in terms of competitiveness and in-team needle…
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Fernando Alonso – 2007
Alonso arrived at McLaren as a double world champion and expecting to be the team’s number one, with rookie Hamilton performing the job of compliant understudy.
However, that expectation was blown apart at the first corner of the first race in Australia as Hamilton boldly swept around the outside of his teammate to pinch second place. Alonso would get ahead before the end of the race as the McLaren duo finished second and third, but the dye had been cast.
Hamilton reeled off podium finish after podium before securing his maiden victory in Canada and then quickly making it two in the US. Tensions between the two drivers could not be contained, with Alonso deliberately holding Hamilton up in the pit-lane during qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix, meaning the Brit couldn’t get in one final fast last.
Alonso was penalised with a grid penalty and Hamilton won the race. After another win for the rookie in appalling conditions at Fuji in Japan – Alonso crashed out – Hamilton should have secured the title at the penultimate race in China, only stay out too long on intermediate tyres and then slid into the gravel trap when he finally came into the pits.
Going into the final race in Brazil, it was between Hamilton, Alonso and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. A mysterious car problem dropped Hamilton down the field. Although his McLaren righted itself, Hamilton couldn’t recover enough places and Raikkonen won the race and the title. Hamilton and Alonso finished level on points with the same number of wins, with the Spaniard slopping back to Renault following a bruising season.
Heikki Kovalainen – 2008-2009
With Alonso’s spell needing to be cut short prematurely, McLaren had to scramble to find another, preferably less controversial, driver.
Step forward, Heikki Kovalainen who, not for the first time in his career, replaced Alonso as he moved over from Renault. Their two years together were certainly more harmonious from a team point of view, but probably too harmonious as the Finn rarely had the pace to help Hamilton take on the Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen.
Hamilton did manage to take the title, only just though, thanks to five wins. Kovalainen did win one race, in Hungary, although that was thanks to Massa’s engine detonating in the closing stages.
On to 2009 and McLaren, having put so much into 2008, produced a wretched car. Despite that, Hamilton managed two wins to finish a respectable fifth in the championship. However, Kovalainen was nowhere, not even getting on the podium as he finished 11th in the standings and it was no surprise when he was replaced for 2010.
Jenson Button – 2010-2012
He may have been world champion but many people thought Button was making a big mistake by going up against Hamilton in the same team. However, Button competed extremely well against his countryman and actually outscored him over their three years together – 672 to 657.
That doesn’t tell the full story though, with Hamilton finishing higher in the championship in 2010 and 2012. In 2011, Button enjoyed arguably his most impressive season while Hamilton endured his worst, with 43 points separating the pair.
Off the track, the pair – two very different characters – got on well, although describing them as ‘friends’ would be pushing it. There were a few run-ins, including a battle over the lead in Turkey in 2010 and a collision in the wet at the famous Canadian Grand Prix of 2011.
The clash ended Hamilton’s race but Button survived, racing from last to first to record his most memorable F1 win. Overall, Hamilton was the quicker driver but Button certainly ran him close.
Nico Rosberg – 2013-2016
Back to Alonso levels of needle we go, only this time it was strung out over four years rather than just one. It’s easy to forget they were teammates in 2013 when Mercedes were building up to becoming the all-conquering team they became.
It was in 2014, when the duo were pitched into a title fight against each other, when it really kicked off. There were rows on and off the track, with the pair colliding at the Belgian Grand Prix and barely on speaking terms by the end of the season.
Hamilton was generally quicker but Rosberg took the title battle all the way to Abu Dhabi, where double points were controversially on offer. Hamilton won the race to secure his long-awaited second world title but he was made to work hard for it.
2015 was far more straightforward for Hamilton, who took the title with three rounds to spare. However, the angst between duo was still high, demonstrated by a cap-throwing incident following the championship-clinch United States Grand Prix.
Rosberg regrouped to win the final three races of that season and then the first three of 2016. That sequence of wins ended in drama when they took each other out on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix, allowing some upstart called Max Verstappen to win his first race since being promoted to the senior Red Bull team.
Hamilton chased his rival down over the second half of the season but an engine failure while leading in Malaysia dealt a severe blow to his title chances. He won the final four races and there was huge tension in Abu Dhabi as he tried to back Rosberg, who only needed to finish third, into Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and the Red Bull of Verstappen.
The plan didn’t work as Rosberg, despite winning seven races to Hamilton’s 10, clinched the title. His spell with Hamilton had taken so much out of him, the German shocked the sport a few days later by retiring.
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Valtteri Bottas – 2017-2021
Much like after the Alonso year, Hamilton was paired with a compliant Finn. That is perhaps doing a disservice Bottas, who was much more competitive than Kovalainen and actually beat Hamilton on several occasions.
Bottas compared particularly well in qualifying but in most races, and certainly over the course of a season, he couldn’t stay with Hamilton. In 2017 and 2018, Hamilton was more concerned about the Ferrari of Vettel, who was competitive over the first half of those seasons before falling away.
Bottas was occasionally told to move over for Hamilton. While irked by team orders, he could have few complaints given the state of the championship at that time.
After Russell’s super-sub appearance for Hamilton in Bahrain in 2020, when the young Brit should have won the race, Bottas could perhaps count himself fortunate to have lasted as long as he did in F1’s best team. His departure at the end of 2021 was inevitable, although the pair remain good pals.
George Russell – 2022-
Up against a Hamilton still smarting from his controversial title defeat to Verstappen and thanks to some in-race fortune, Russell made a stronger start to 2022 than his illustrious teammate. He also has the team’s only pole position of the season with two races left.
But Hamilton has certainly had the edge since the summer and looks like the driver most likely to end Mercedes’ long wait for a win. He could even edge ahead of his young teammate in the standings before the end of the season.
Of the track, there has been little drama, largely because Mercedes haven't been part of the title fight for the first time in almost a decade. However, if the Silver Arrows can take the fight to Verstappen and Red Bull in 2023, the gloves could well come off as Russell will not settle for being a Bottas/Kovalainen-like understudy.
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