George Russell reveals how Toto Wolff has surprised him at Mercedes

George Russell has impressed during his debut season at Mercedes this year.

Mercedes’ George Russell has conceded that he did not expect team principal Toto Wolff to be as involved as he is in the technical aspect of the sport.

Wolff entered Formula 1 from the world of business when he joined Williams in 2009, so it is easy to forget that he had forged a fairly successful racing career for himself.

He competed in Austrian and German Formula Ford in 1993 and 1994, winning the 24 hours of the Nürburgring in his category in the latter of those years.

He went on to compete in the Italian GT championship as well as the Austrian Rally Championship, setting the lap record at the Nordschleife in a Porsche RSR in 2009.

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Russell became part of the Mercedes junior programme in 2015 a couple of years after he was convinced by the team to stick with his Formula 1 ambitions rather than join DTM.

He made a PowerPoint presentation to Wolff explaining why the Austrian should bring him on board and, after three mightily impressive seasons with Williams, the 24-year-old was signed to Mercedes at the start of this season to partner Sir Lewis Hamilton.

The Silver Arrows have had plenty of hardships to contend with this season due to their issues adapting to the ground effect aerodynamics under the new technical regulations.

Russell and Hamilton have managed seven podium finishes between them this year, and everyone at the team has been pulling together to catch back up to Ferrari and Red Bull at the front.

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They have been making gains in recent weeks, and a big part of that has been the influence of Wolff who, to Russell’s surprise, is highly clued in on the technical side of things.

“It’s been really intriguing for me to see how Toto is involved on the technical front,” said the Briton on the Beyond the Grid Podcast.

“Firstly, I never quite knew how good his technical knowledge was, but now he is fully involved in all of these technical meetings, he’s really trying to push the whole team and he’s a racer at heart.

“I think having a leader who is not only as inspiring as he is and motivating, everybody is clear what a great leader Toto is.

“He also understands the technical side of things and can look at things a bit more rationally, maybe from afar, but actually asking the right questions – it goes a long way.”

Since the start of the year, Russell and Wolff have been doing a lot of team bonding together, and this started with a ice racing ahead of the new season.

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“We did an ice driving event at the start of this year in Austria, with a load of sponsors, the day finished at six o’clock, and Toto and I stayed until nine,” added Russell.

“It was pitch black, but we had lights on this little rally car, he was doing some laps, I was a passenger, and I have my iPhone out on the stopwatch, and then vice versa.”

Russell was impressed by the 50-year-old’s eagerness to push during the fun event.

“To be honest, I was pretty surprised at the commitment and pace he was showing,” he said.

“He probably went off a few more times than I did, but the pace was pretty strong so I’m learning new stuff about him.”

Russell is fourth in the Drivers’ Standings after 11 rounds of the 2022 season, and he has out-qualified team-mate Hamilton six times, out-performing him seven times in race trim.