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Wolff to let Russell and Bottas "off the leash" in battle for Sakhir GP victory

Wolff to let Russell and Bottas "off the leash" in battle for Sakhir GP victory

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Wolff to let Russell and Bottas "off the leash" in battle for Sakhir GP victory

Wolff to let Russell and Bottas "off the leash" in battle for Sakhir GP victory

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff will not hold George Russell back in his bid for victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Wolff conceded to being "impressed but not surprised" by Russell's qualifying display in which the Briton finished just 0.026 seconds behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

It comes after the 22-year-old was drafted in from Williams at short notice to replace the Covid-hit Lewis Hamilton, and in a W11 in which he is feeling very uncomfortable due to the cockpit being too tight as it has been made for the seven-time champion.

With the pair locking out the front row, Russell has been reassured he can fight for the win against Bottas despite the Finn's obvious seniority within the team.

"Free to race, that’s what we owe to everybody," said Wolff after being asked if the team would continue its tradition of allowing its drivers to compete, as it currently does with Hamilton and Bottas, before adding: "Off the leash."

Confirming Russell is "a driver for the future", he said: "Having been thrown into cold water, he is definitely swimming.

"Not only swimming, he is not comfortable in the car, it is too small, it is not his steering wheel so I would say it is more than solid what he has delivered."

As to what has particularly impressed him over the two days to date, Wolff said: "His speed.

"What I saw the last time with him when I was able to benchmark him in F3 and F2, I have now seen in a Formula 1 car.

"His kindness about approaching it and just a really considered approach, I would say."

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