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Lewis Hamilton defends Mercedes team-mate George Russell and calls for 'support not negativity'

Lewis Hamilton stands up for his team-mate and Mercedes after online conspiracy theories over the reason for George Russell's 2024 qualifying dominance; watch every session of Spanish GP live on Sky Sports F1, with qualifying on Saturday at 3pm and race on Sunday at 2pm

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George Russell believes the Spanish, Austrian, and the British GP will help Mercedes see the true performance of the car

Lewis Hamilton has defended team-mate George Russell from criticism on social media and says Mercedes need "support not negativity" from fans.

In what is Hamilton's final season at his long-time Brackley team before his blockbuster switch for 2025 to Ferrari, Russell holds an 8-1 lead in their qualifying head-to-head and is 14 points clear of the seven-time champion in the championship standings after the season's first nine rounds.

Russell's dominance in qualifying in particular has caught the eye and led to wild conspiracy theories on social media alleging favouritism towards the younger Briton, who is staying at the team for 2025.

It also emerged that members of the media and senior figures within F1 received an anonymous email in the wake of the Canadian Grand Prix from someone purporting to be a Mercedes employee which contained allegations of sabotage against Hamilton's car. Having done due diligence, Mercedes are satisfied the email did not originate from anyone employed by the team and have reported the matter to the police.

Asked about claims being made by some fans on social media and recent online abuse directed at Russell, Hamilton stood up for both his team-mate and Mercedes.

"I think they know if you look over the years, we've always been a strong team. We've always worked really hard together," said Hamilton, speaking in Mercedes' Thursday press conference sitting alongside Russell ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

"I think it's easy to get emotional. But I think it's always… I even commented in the last race, for example, just about my performance.

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Lewis Hamilton described his fourth-place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix as one of the 'worst races he's driven'

"I think we need support, not negativity, and I wasn't actually aware that George was experiencing negativity.

"George has done nothing but his best every single weekend and is delivering for the team, so he can't be faulted at all.

"Of course, there can always be things done better within the team, and that comes through conversation, through communication, and that's something that we are consistently working on.

"But we're all in the same boat. We're all working hard together. We want to finish on a high and feel that we owe that to our long-term relationship that we've had."

Sitting alongside Hamilton, Russell said: "I have a team that looks after my social media. I don't look on Instagram or Twitter to be honest.

"(The comments) are not something I have seen. I have heard about it, and it is never nice to hear, but that is the world we live in at the moment and unfortunately any person in the public eye is facing it.

"Social media is a double-edged sword. You see funny things and it keeps you up to date, but on the flip side, everybody in the limelight receives negativity."

Russell reflects on Canada errors and explains 'risk'

This weekend's Spanish Grand Prix takes place two weeks after easily Mercedes' most competitive showing of their difficult season so far in Canada, when Russell qualified on pole and contended for the race win.

The Briton's bid for a first victory for the team since November 2022 was ultimately undone by several mistakes, with a frustrated Russell critical of his driving in the aftermath of the race after finishing third.

"I was very upset with myself Sunday night, Monday morning," reflected Russell.

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Russell apologised on the team radio after having an 'ugly race' which saw the Mercedes driver start on pole and finish third at the Canadian Grand Prix

"It was when I watched the race back, I was reminded how tricky it was there and I could have easily not made any of those mistakes if I'd turned down the risk dial and drove a tenth a lap slower for 70 laps.

"But if I drove a tenth of a lap slower for 70 laps, I probably wouldn't have been in that position in the first place.

"In 2022, I don't think I was pushing myself as much as I am now and I didn't make any mistakes really throughout the course of the whole season.

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Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Damon Hill believes Mercedes should back Russell more

"Now I'm really, really pushing myself because I want to get that victory for the team. If I was fighting for a championship, I probably wouldn't be pushing myself or risking that much during these races.

"But right now we're not fighting for the championship, we had half a chance of victory and I went above and beyond to achieve it, and probably too far."

Can Mercedes stay in contention at the front in Spain?

Mercedes and their improving W15 car now face what Russell admits is a "real test" at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya this weekend - a circuit that features higher-speed, sweeping corners and rewards aerodynamic efficiency.

"It's very exciting ahead of this weekend because ahead of Canada we were driving on the simulator trying these new upgrades and it seemed to be a big step forward," said Russell.

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"Honestly, I didn't really believe it when I was driving on the simulator, and it truly turned out to be true in Canada. But we also had some indications that Canada being very similar corners around the whole circuit that we could be fast here. This is going to be a real test. If we're fast here, that's going to bode really well for the season."

Hamilton, a six-time victor in Barcelona, added: "There are no certainties in this industry.

"We have not been on a high-speed circuit get so we'll see how it goes. I'm optimistic".

Sky Sports F1's live Spanish GP schedule

Friday June 21
7.45am: F1 Academy Practice
8:50am: F3 Practice
10am: F2 Practice
12pm: Spanish GP Practice One (session starts at 12.30pm)
1.55pm: F3 Qualifying
2.50pm: F2 Qualifying
3.35pm: Spanish GP Practice Two (session starts at 4pm)
5.25pm: F1 Academy Qualifying
6.15pm: The F1 Show

Spanish GP

Saturday June 22
9.35am: F3 Sprint
11.15am: Spanish Romagna GP Practice Three (session starts at 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.10pm: Spanish GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Spanish GP Qualifying
5pm: F1 Academy Race 1

Sunday June 23
7.45am: F1 Academy Race 2
9am: F3 Feature Race
10.30am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Spanish GP build-up
4pm: Chequered Flag: Spanish GP reaction

Formula 1 heads back to Europe as the championship moves on to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix and the start of a triple-header. Watch every session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend, live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - No contract, cancel anytime

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