Toto Wolff has excuse for Lewis Hamilton’s woes as he makes surprising George Russell claim

George Russell signed with Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas at the start of the season.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes that George Russell’s three years at Williams helped to adapt to life at Mercedes.

Sir Lewis Hamilton was given somewhat of a culture shock at the start of 2022 when the Silver Arrows found themselves battling in between the front and the midfield, instead of fighting for race wins.

The seven-time champion scored a podium in the first round of the season in Bahrain, but Russell went on to out-perform him in race trim in the following seven rounds.

A testament to both drivers is that Nico Rosberg is the only other driver to have ever managed that, so the 24-year-old has adapted well, while Hamilton has shown over the years how difficult it is to beat him.

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Russell made his debut in 2019 with the Williams team, and spent two seasons racing towards the back as Robert Kubica picked up their only point between 2018 and 2021.

However, the Briton finale scored in Hungary last season, before scoring a podium in the bizarre Belgian Grand Prix.

Other than that though, it was extremely difficult to get results out of the car, as opposed to Hamilton, whose incredible skill was being complimented by a championship winning car to boot.

This, in Wolff’s eyes, explains why the 24-year-old enjoyed a better opening eight rounds of the year than Hamilton.

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“George has sometimes struggled a bit less because he’s maybe used to driving difficult cars at the back of the grid, but Lewis was unlucky on many occasions,” he told Square Mile.

“He could have scored another two podiums and then the pendulum would have swung.”

In Imola, Hamilton finished a race outside the points for only the second time in nine years, and Wolff took to the radio to apologise to the 103-time race winner.

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That result coincided with a P4 for Russell in the same race, so there were question marks as to whether the Austrian was simply trying to make his driver feel better about his performance.

However, the 50-year-old maintains that, having watched Hamilton win six of the last eight championships and become one of the all-time greats of Formula 1, this year’s W13 is simply not good enough.

“I need to protect him, because people have started to hit out at him, which is not right,” explained Wolff.

“It’s complete nonsense: he’s the greatest driver of all-time, the car is just subpar.

“So, it [the apology] is to make sure that everybody comprehends that the car is not performing, and not that the driver is at fault.”

Since the turbulent start to the year, Hamilton has taken his tally up to six podiums for the season, and he looked in contention for the win in Silverstone too.

Russell’s pole position in Hungary and the subsequent double podium for him and Hamilton was a sign that, while there is still work to do for the German side, they are very much back on the right track.