Wolff calls for calm after Russell’s first day success at Mercedes
Toto Wolff has called for calm after Mercedes protégé George Russell finished fastest in both opening practice sessions on his debut for the team in Bahrain.
Russell was given a golden opportunity to demonstrate his talent at the top of the grid when he was drafted in to replace world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is sitting out the Sakhir Grand Prix after contracting Covid-19.
Russell put his chance to good use in the first practice session, setting the fastest lap time in F1 history on the super-short Outer Circuit, and went top again in the second session as team-mate Valtteri Bottas had a difficult time.
Eager to avoid an over-the-top reaction to Russell's performance, Wolff said: “We need to calm everybody down. I’m happy with what George has done. It’s about what we expected him to do.
“He is a highly rated driver, one of the most highly rated, so it is expected for him to be fast. He knows the team and this is a 50-second circuit where you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right engine modes.
“In that respect we all expect George to be right there and we will see how the weekend ends.”
Russell’s debut for the team is being touted in some quarters as a ‘shootout’ between the 22-year-old and Bottas for a seat in 2022, but Wolff dismissed such suggestions and said the Finn has nothing to worry about.
Wolff explained that being able to assess Russell in the Mercedes this weekend and, possibly, in Abu Dhabi next weekend, will have no implications on the team’s future plans.
“We know that we race next year with Lewis and Valtteri and 2022 it will all depend how our own season will go and not on George’s performance on an oval in Bahrain,” said Wolff.
“Valtteri has never been anyone who needs reassuring. He knows where he stands, he knows his position in the team and how we are supportive of each other and we have to remain realistic.
“You can’t call it a shootout when it’s about one or two races. That doesn’t give you any meaningful data whatsoever.
“If George does well, it’s an indication that one day he is going to be in a good car and fight for victories and world championships but he knows that, he just needs to do a good job, make no mistakes and continue what he’s done.”
Wolff added that while it is an “interesting exercise” to have Russell in the car there is “no buzz” around it because the whole team would “rather have everything normal” with Hamilton in the car.
The Austrian, however, believes Russell has the maturity to do a good job in replacing the seven-time world champion, thanks to the “relaxed and focused” approach he has already shown after being “thrown in the cold water” this weekend.
“His personality is well suited to jump in the car in such a high-pressure situation,” Wolff said. “He has a good plan of where he wants the car to be, but being drafted in last minute, like he has, we need to find compromises.
“The maturity he has shown in an early age has panned out. I remember him coming to my office when he was 15 or 16 in a black suit and a black tie with a powerpoint presentation on why Mercedes should support him.
“So, [he is] very mature for his age, but again, let’s keep both feet on the ground. These cars haven’t been taken out in anger and we haven’t raced yet.”
It foesent say much for hamton if roomie russel can get second place on his first drive shows how poor hamlton realy is it only tbe car that got him their, as every one knows
Yes your right hamilton is ***** its thecar tbats been prkved beyond dought noe
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