‘Not that he’s missed out’: Why Toto Wolff demanded change after George Russell incident

A communication lapse hindered Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has stressed the importance of ramping up communication and coordination with the drivers after a costly miscommunication during Saturday’s Sprint Shootout at the Belgian Grand Prix. 

The incident occurred when Lewis Hamilton, after setting the fastest time on his first run in SQ3, found himself stuck behind teammate George Russell as they approached the starting line for their final flyers.

Russell made a mistake at La Source, causing a loss of momentum that further hindered Hamilton. 

This unfortunate track positioning and lack of strategic coordination affected both drivers’ laps, resulting in a compromised performance during the decisive moments of the session.

Want to work in Formula 1? Browse the latest F1 job vacancies

Wolff acknowledged the team’s shared responsibility for the mishap, stating, “When you see that he [Hamilton] was leading the pack before that last lap, it is clearly a problem for all of us. 

“It’s not that he’s missed out on pole or a front row, but it is that the team has missed out on it, and it is all of us together.”

The Mercedes boss emphasised the need for constant development and learning, acknowledging that the team had made some progress in addressing the issue but must strive to improve further. 

He noted that despite a few setbacks, the focus should be on enhancing the team’s performance to avoid similar situations in the future.

Article continues below

Both Russell and Hamilton expressed their disappointment over the miscommunication. 

Russell referred to the incident as “a mess,” while Hamilton rued the missed opportunity to fight for a spot on the front row of the Sprint grid.

Wolff added, “In these situations where it’s about crossing the line, in tough conditions, we have just got to have some precision. 

“Very quickly you can look very good and very intelligent, and then very bad.” 

He emphasised the importance of maintaining accuracy and clear communication, especially in high-pressure situations where every second counts.

READ: Nico Rosberg taunts McLaren after ban

The team principal highlighted that their misstep had broader implications beyond their own drivers, as it affected Max Verstappen’s chances of securing a final flying lap. 

However, Wolff emphasised that the focus should be on self-improvement rather than dwelling on external factors. 

He pointed out that Mercedes had the time to provide both drivers with a proper launch, and the team needed to avoid such lapses in the future.