Toto Wolff admits George Russell should have moved to Mercedes a year earlier

George Russell speaks to Toto Wolff. Mexico November 2021. Credit: Alamy
George Russell speaks to Toto Wolff. Mexico November 2021. Credit: Alamy

Toto Wolff has suggested George Russell spent “a year too long” at Williams after the Brit became the newest F1 race winner.

Wolff may not have been trackside but the São Paulo Grand Prix represented a proud moment in his stewardship of the Mercedes Formula 1 team.

With Russell’s victory, he became the first member of Mercedes’ junior programme to win a race and also the sixth driver in history to win with the team.

Following the conclusion of the grand prix, Wolff began to reminiscence about the teenager that arrived in his office with “his PowerPoint presentation”.

“I thought about it at the end of the race, when he walked in as a 16-year-old with his suit and his tie and his PowerPoint presentation,” Wolff said, as reported by Motorsport.com. “He’s the first of our new junior programme that has won a race.

“Obviously Lewis [Hamilton has been there forever, and is the most successful of the ones that have graduated from our junior academy. But six years later, [Russell is] a grand prix race winner. We’ve always set hard targets. You’ve got to win GP3, you’ve got to win F2, and he did that in his rookie seasons.”

Before Mercedes, Russell spent three seasons at Williams and year by year, it became a case of when not if he was going to move up to the Silver Arrows team.

He earned his first points in 2020 before a maiden podium, albeit during the rain-hit 2021 Belgian Grand Prix in which no laps were actually raced.

But Valtteri Bottas stood in his way, with the Finn providing the consistent performances Mercedes were searching for on their way to multiple Constructors’ Championships.

Russell’s move to Mercedes was eventually confirmed in September 2021 but not before he and Bottas came together in a high-speed crash at Imola.

Wolff has now admitted that Russell spent perhaps “a year too long” at Williams before making the move to the Silver Arrows.

“I guess at Williams, it was the best schooling he could have had, maybe a year too long,” Wolff said.

“But in any case, today the most relevant [thing] is that he’s a grand prix winner and a deserving grand prix winner.”

With his race victory, Russell has increased the gap between himself and Hamilton to 25 points meaning that he has all but assured he has beat his team-mate for the fourth year running, a feat few would have predicted before the start of the season.

Russell and Hamilton are also both ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz which seemed an unlikely situation at the start of the campaign.

Read more: Mercedes drivers ‘knew’ the consequences of a team-mate crash in Sao Paulo GP

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