Mercedes protégé George Russell has shot down claims a rift has grown between himself and Lewis Hamilton and says there are “no hard feelings” after a winter of contract rumours and negotiations.
Russell, who is being lined up as Hamilton’s future replacement at Mercedes, impressed when he stepped in for the Covid-19 hit reigning champion in the penultimate race of last year in Bahrain.
Since then, Hamilton has signed a one-year deal to continue with the team until the end of this season, and it is reported he requested the power to veto potential team-mates.
Asked ahead of this weekend’s race at Imola about claims the two no longer speak, Russell said: “I think the question towards me was ‘Did you speak to Lewis after Bahrain?’ and no, we didn’t speak, as we wouldn’t speak after any other race.
“We are racing against each other, and if we see each other in the paddock we would speak.
"We’ve seen each other this year, a little bit from a long way, and that’s been the same since 2019 and last year before the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“My relationship towards Lewis is the same as it is with a lot of the drivers up and down the paddock, which is completely fine. So there’s no hard feelings or no issues between myself and Lewis."
Russell, who currently drives for back-of-the grid team Williams, signed as a Mercedes junior driver in 2016 and there were suggestions he may replace Hamilton’s current team-mate Valtteri Bottas this season in a team switch.
That did not happen, leaving Russell to remain at Williams for a further year, but he is confident of securing a place in the team when he is given the chance to do so.
He added: “Mercedes have been loyal to me since day one, so that isn’t even crossing my mind at the moment. They have their faith in me, I have my faith in them, and time will tell.
“It’s been clear since 2016 when I signed for Mercedes - do the job on track and the opportunities will come, and that’s been the case through GP3, Formula 2 and then my career in Formula 1.
“We signed a three-year deal back in 2018. Let’s wait and see. At the moment, that thought hasn’t even crossed my mind.”
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