Toto Wolff opens up on George Russell regret

George Russell was brought in to replace Valtteri Bottas for the 2022 season, partnering Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.v1

It was always written in the stars that George Russell would race for Mercedes one day, after being a part of the team since a young age.

The Brit stepped in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, as the seven-time world champion had tested positive for COVID-19, and nearly won the race before being hampered by a pit stop blunder and puncture late on in the race.

After exceeding all expectations at Williams, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff decided that 2022 would be the year that Russell would be ready to join the Silver Arrows, replacing Valtteri Bottas who had been a loyal wingman for Hamilton since he joined the team in 2017.

Following a tough first year with Mercedes, Russell secured his first ever F1 victory in Brazil after taking pole position following the sprint race.

READ: Alpine reprimand Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon over ‘silliness’

Toto Wolff was not present at Interlagos but was seen on facetime to his drivers after the team secured their first one-two finish since Imola in 2020, clearly over the moon with the result following a so far winless year.

Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ showed how difficult a decision it was for Wolff to choose between Bottas and Russell, with the Austrian eventually waiting until he knew Bottas had found a new team before announcing Russell as a part of his 2022 line-up.

The Mercedes boss has now suggested that he should have made the change a year earlier, as he believes that the extra year at Williams may have stunted the young driver’s development.

“I thought about it at the end of the race, when he walking in as a 16-year-old with his suit and tie and his PowerPoint presentation, he’s the first of our new junior programme that has won a race,” said Wolff.

Article continues below

READ: Max Verstappen’s mother claims Sergio Perez cheated on his wife

“Obviously Lewis is the most successful of the ones that have graduated from our junior academy. But six years later, [Russell is] a Grand Prix winner.

“We’ve always set hard targets. You’ve got to win GP3, you’ve got to win F2, and he did that in his rookie seasons.

“I guess at Williams, it was the best schooling he could have had, maybe a year too long. But in any case, today the most relevant [thing] is that he’s a Grand Prix winner and a deserving Grand Prix winner.”

According to Wolff it was touch and go whether Russell would even finish the race in Brazil after the Brit’s car developed a water leak in the latter stages of the race, but the team decided not to tell their driver so he could focus on the race, which he luckily finished.