Toto Wolff addresses George Russell’s ‘proper’ engine failure

George Russell slipped to seventh in the Drivers' Championship after retiring in Australia with an engine failure.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed that George Russell’s power unit failure at the Australian Grand Prix is down to a suspected cylinder failure, with the British driver’s race having ended on Lap 18.

Up until his sudden retirement, Russell had been having an incredible weekend at the Albert Park Circuit, with the former Williams driver having qualified second.

He was able to almost get within two-tenths of polesitter Max Verstappen, although, this didn’t matter too much as Russell overtook the reigning World Champion on the rundown to Turn One.

Russell went on to lead the opening nine laps, before making an early pit-stop after a Safety Car was summoned due to a crash for Alex Albon.

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Whilst this was deemed as “absolutely” the right strategy by Wolff after the race, Russell was suddenly caught out by a red flag for Albon’s crash.

This allowed the remaining drivers yet to pit to change their tyres without losing a position, resulting in Russell losing the advantage of the undercut.

It wasn’t long after the race resumed that Russell suffered his “proper” engine failure, which brought a disappointing end to what was a great weekend on the whole.

“Bang! It’s a proper failure but we don’t know what it was yet. I think it was on one of the cylinders,” Wolff said.

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As a result of suffering an engine failure, Russell has slipped to seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, with the 25-year-old now being 20 points behind Lewis Hamilton.

Had the first red flag been expected, then the likelihood is that Mercedes wouldn’t have pitted Russell so early, with Wolff having asked as a result for better clarification when a red flag will be “put out”.

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“I think the strategy call with George was absolutely the right one, splitting the cars and I think he would have had a real go at being very much at the front, so that’s a shame,” Wolff added.

“Both red flags, we didn’t see coming. I think restarts are great and have a great entertainment factor, but we just need to understand going forward when a red flag is being put out and what is a safety car or VSC.

“I think those incidents, we could have applied either.”