Toto Wolff rushes to George Russell’s defence

Mercedes driver George Russell has managed to claim just one podium in 2023, at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has defended George Russell, who’s endured a below par season so far.

Having impressed so many people in his maiden Mercedes campaign last year, Russell has failed to raise his game in 2023, something Wolff puts down to the W14 being on a “knife-edge”.

Russell incredibly became just the third team-mate of Lewis Hamilton’s to defeat him in the Drivers’ Championship last season, something very few predicted.

Hamilton has reclaimed the lead role in the team this year though, with him sitting 49 points ahead of Russell.

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The seven-time World Champion has actually been very dominant over Russell in 2023 and has claimed three more podiums than him.

Hamilton has just gotten on with the W14 significantly better, with Russell having seemingly struggled to find the “sweet spot”, something Wolff believes the car doesn’t have.

“These cars are on the knife-edge, and you can quickly fall off it and lose the confidence,” Wolff told Autosport.

“And on the other side, if you’re within that corridor of a sweet spot – although having said that, that car [the W14] has no sweet spot – but being more in that zone of understanding what it will do next, I think there’s a big difference.”

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Mercedes technical director, Mike Elliott, has also defended Russell, who he insists is a “fantastic driver”.

Elliott is certain that Russell will figure out how to improve his performances “fairly quickly”, something the Briton will try to do at this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.

“I think these cars are hard to drive and they’re running close to the ground,” Elliott said. “And it’s tricky to sort of find that right balance through the corner. It’s tricky to do [that] with the stiffness of the cars.

“George is a fantastic driver so I’m sure he’ll get what he needs to get out of the car fairly quickly.”

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Mercedes seemingly have a few upgrades to come in the second half of the season which Russell expects will improve his pace, with the 25-year-old feeling “confident” that the Silver Arrows will claim second in the Constructors’ Championship.

“When you’re on the right foot, things are a little bit easier,” Russell said. “You’re not stressing, your car is in the right place when you put it on the ground.

“I’m sure we’re going to be strong in the second half of the season. We’ve got some little things coming in after the break. I’m confident we can secure that second-best team… to try and close that gap [to Red Bull] further.”