Forget Lewis Hamilton, this is George Russell’s true Formula 1 rival…

Despite their crash in Qatar, Russell has bigger things to worry about than his seven-time champion teammate...

Forget Lewis Hamilton, this is George Russell’s true Formula 1 rival…
F1 Grand Prix of Qatar
George Russell has fallen to eighth in the standings with just five races to go (Photo: Getty)

As Sir Lewis Hamilton collided with George Russell at the first corner of the first lap of the Qatar Grand Prix, Formula One fans were left with a feeling of déjà vu.

Just over seven years ago, millions watched on in a mix of shock, horror and delight as Hamilton tangled with former teammate Nico Rosberg at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix.

That crash knocked both drivers out of the race and is viewed by many as the peak of the fierce rivalry between the two Mercedes men, who had once been the closest of childhood friends.

It has been suggested that this latest crash will be the catalyst for a new conflict between the Silver Arrows, as the veteran seven-time champion battles the young starlet who has long been tipped for F1 glory.

Sure, this could happen. Tension has been bubbling up nicely between the two after all. Yet, it is not Hamilton who Russell should be worrying about: His true rival is the other Brit on the grid…

Bar the near-invincible Max Verstappen, Lando Norris has been the standout driver of 2023, with McLaren’s drastic upturn in form finally giving the 23-year-old a chance to prove his quality.

While Russell has had a Mercedes capable of getting on or near the podium all season, it took Norris’ McLaren nine races to kick into gear. Yet, Norris has finished in the top three five times. Russell has done that just once.

F1 Qatar Grand Prix
There is tension between Lewis Hamilton and Russell, but their rivalry is unlikely to reach boiling point (Photo: X / Getty)

Recent results have catapulted Norris ahead of Russell in the standings and with five rounds to go he is well-placed to pip the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc to a top five finish.

The McLaren man has barely put a foot wrong all year but Russell’s clumsy mistakes have started to pile up, most notably with a crash on the final lap while trying to overtake Norris in Singapore.

A poor season, especially when compared to his impressive maiden campaign at Mercedes where he achieved the rare feat of beating Hamilton as his teammate – only world champions Rosberg and Jenson Button have ever done that.

F1 Grand Prix of Qatar
Lando Norris and Russell are gearing up for their 100th F1 race (Photo: Getty)

It was expected that he would be the next man to fly the flag for the UK, following in the footsteps of Sir Stirling Moss, James Hunt and Nigel Mansell. The heir apparent to Hamilton – arguably the G.O.A.T. That status is very much under threat.

Ask fans and pundits who is better and right now Norris would be the likely answer. A recent poll by OLBG places Russell as the fifth most popular driver on the grid. Impressive, but still behind Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

It’s incredibly rare to see two top-class Brits on the grid competing for major honours at the same time, and the battle on track will no doubt be matched by the one for hearts and minds as the pair reach a century of F1 races at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

Who will emerge on top? That will be answered over the next decade or so, but while Norris has the lead right now, Russell is more than capable of getting back in front, and the missed opportunity caused by the crash in Qatar should be fueling his motivation.

I for one, can’t wait to watch how Russell vs Norris plays out, though whether the drivers in question see themselves as big rivals remains to be seen as they have maintained a great friendship since their junior careers.

But as Hamilton and Rosberg proved a decade ago, even the closest of relationships can be torn apart in the pursuit of speed and glory.

MORE : ‘Good to be back!’ – Daniel Ricciardo opens up on injury woes as he returns for US Grand Prix

MORE : Mercedes boss speaks out about Lewis Hamilton’s ‘frustrating’ crash with George Russell

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