Wolff criticises Verstappen’s ‘win it or bin it’ approach to racing

Toto Wolff believes that George Russell takes a more "intellectual" approach to racing than Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said that Max Verstappen is an aggressive racer who takes no shortage of risks, while George Russell is more calculated.

Verstappen came to blows on several occasions with Sir Lewis Hamilton last year on his way to beating the seven-time champion to claim his first Formula 1 title, and one of those incidents took place at the British Grand Prix.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner made the suggestion that, in recognition of the fact that the Dutchman was potentially faster on the day having taken pole, the Briton knew what he was doing when they made contact with one another on the opening lap of the race, sending Verstappen into the wall.

READ: Hamilton ‘crusaders’ brand Verstappen ‘human error champion’ after FIA report released

“He knew had Max come through that corner, he might not have seen him again for the afternoon,” he told Sky Sports, before labelling the 37-year-old’s victory “hollow.”

However, a member of the Mercedes team was heard on season four of Drive to Survive saying that the incident was “exactly the right” lesson for Verstappen to learn due to his perceivably truculent racing style.

Wolff acknowledges that Verstappen’s aggression differs from Russell’s approach when it comes to close-quarter racing.

“I think Max’s approach – and this is George’s phrase since he was in go-karting – is ‘win it or bin it’,” he told GQ.

“George approaches it more from an intellectual standpoint, while having all the skills.”

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Russell joined Mercedes from Williams in 2022 to replace Valtteri Bottas, and has been made aware by 1996 champion Damon Hill that he would be ill-advised to head into the team with the intention of beating Hamilton straight away.

While the Austrian will want to avoid a repeat of the toxic relationship between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, he does not want to diminish the 24-year-old’s mentality that he wants to win races.

“You can’t tell a man that has been in a go-kart from the age of six, having been sent out in the rain alone, that ‘now you’re a part of the team, you need to drive for the team’,” he explained.

“It’s ingrained in them to be alone out there – to be opportunistic.”

Mercedes got off to a stuttering start to the 2022 season in Bahrain as the issues they have accosted during pre-season under the new technical regulations resulted in a pace deficit compared to Ferrari and Red Bull.

Russell wants to be out front battling with his team-mate for wins, but recognises that he must work cohesively with the 37-year-old to reach that goal.

“In an ideal world, we just want to be battling one another,” he added.

“We don’t want to be battling with the Red Bulls and the Ferraris. So we need to work together and push each other to be able to achieve that.”

The young Briton, who ended the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix fourth having qualified ninth, is happy to take short-term pain if it cultivates long-term gain.

READ: Russell reveals when he thinks Mercedes will find ‘silver bullet’ to 2022 car’s deficiencies

“I want to win… obviously. I want to win today. But you give me the choice of winning today and having an average future, or learning today and then 10 years of success – it’s an easy choice,” he stated.

Following an adverse weekend in which the eight-time constructors’ champions had to watch Ferrari take a one-two through Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, Russell admitted he was not sure if his team could find a “silver bullet” in the next coupe of races, but will endeavour to do so as soon as possible.