Toto Wolff opens up on George Russell apology

Last year's Hungarian Grand Prix pole-sitter George Russell was left disappointed, starting 18th on the grid due to a team error.

In a frustrating turn of events during the qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Mercedes offered an apology to George Russell after a costly error left him languishing in 18th place on the Formula One grid. 

The mishap occurred as a consequence of the new tyre format introduced to reduce the number of tyres transported to races, requiring drivers to use hard compounds in the first phase, mediums in the second, and softs for the top 10.

Russell, aiming to secure a clear space in a queue of cars for a final flying lap in the first phase, found himself at a disadvantage when rival drivers overtook him at the final corner. 

This unfortunate turn of events proved detrimental to his qualifying performance. Meanwhile, his teammate and seven-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton, secured pole position, his first since 2021.

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Taking responsibility for the mistake, team boss Toto Wolff acknowledged, “We made a mistake with George. 

“We should have put him in a much better position on track, and we’ve apologised to him for that.” 

He further explained that there is a “gentleman’s agreement” among drivers not to overtake each other as time is running out, but the agreement was breached when several cars passed Russell, ultimately affecting his final lap.

The disappointment was palpable within the Mercedes team as trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin expressed regret for letting George down in handling his session. 

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“It wasn’t good enough, and we’ll review and see how we can improve,” said Shovlin. “It’s obviously very disappointing when we see the promise of the car, and that he didn’t get the opportunity to get a clean run in.”

George Russell shared his own perspective on the incident, praising the car’s performance but lamenting the missed opportunity. “The car felt great, but I was already three tenths down before I even got to turn one,” he revealed. 

The young Briton expressed disappointment in the team’s decision to take unnecessary risks, believing that the car had the pace to advance to Q2 or Q3 without compromising the final lap.

Regarding the so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement,’ Russell maintained that while he understood why some drivers chose to overtake, ultimately, drivers must prioritise their own interests. 

The overcrowded track posed challenges for everyone, with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas being among those affected by multiple blockages during his lap.

READ: Ferrari handed huge blow in Hungary

However, Russell emphasised that the primary issue was Mercedes’ failure to put him in a better position from the start. “If you don’t do things right, you’ll get punished, and we got punished for sure,” he concluded, expressing his frustration with the missed opportunity.

Russell managed to recover in Sunday’s race, taking P6 thanks to a strong drive and the benefit of a five second penalty imposed on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. 

With Hamilton not far down the road in P4, Russell and Mercedes will be comfortable with the points they take away from the weekend after the tough start.