Wolff clarifies Mercedes’ number 1 driver policy as testing gets underway

Toto Wolff has confirmed that he will not be favouring either Sir Lewis Hamilton or George Russell in 2022.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has insisted that he will not be issuing any preferential treatment to either Sir Lewis Hamilton or George Russell in 2022.

Russell has replaced Valtteri Bottas alongside Hamilton this year following a five-year spell that often saw the Finn placed into a support role for the seven-time world champion.

However, the 32-year-old did manage to play a significant role both in the successes of Hamilton and of the Mercedes team, helping them to five of their record eight Constructors’ Championships.

Russell, who out-qualified Williams team-mates Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi 57 times in 59 races and scored a podium at last year’s farcical Belgian Grand Prix, has been warned by 1996 world champion Damon Hill not to try and “knock spots” off his compatriot as team-mates next season.

But the 24-year-old will certainly not be going into the Brackley team with the mentality that he is there to support Hamilton, and Wolff declares that both drivers will have an equal chance to display their talents and compete for race wins, regardless of the fraught on-track exchanges between Hamilton and former team-mate Nico Rosberg.

“We never had a situation where [it was] one and two; they had equal opportunities and the same car,” he said, as quoted by Sky Sports.

“This year, the interesting situation is we have in George the up-and-coming star [in one car], and undoubtedly the best Formula 1 driver ever in the other seat.

“So the dynamic is new and clearly it’s something that we will try to steer in a direction that has the most positive effect on developing the car and making us overall competitive.”

Some members of the F1 community had touted Hamilton to leave the sport following his controversial defeat to Max Verstappen at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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Race director Michael Masi has since been removed from his role, and the Briton has vowed to come back swinging after his record eighth championship was cruelly snatched from his grasp.

Wolff has no doubt as to his driver’s mindset heading into the new season.

“I think that adversity has always made him stronger, more resilient, and determined. This is the attitude I feel in him right now and, also, the mindset that I see in the team,” added the 50-year-old.

Mercedes are hoping to remain at the very top of the pinnacle of motorsport following the sweeping alterations to the technical regulations, and they will get their first indication of their car’s competitiveness today as the cars head out onto the Spanish Grand Prix Circuit in Barcelona for the first pre-season “shakedown.”