Toto Wolff radio message questioned amid George Russell “audition” to be “No1”

"We are talking about Formula 1 and it’s a dog eat dog world"

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 7, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola, Italy,
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 7,…

George Russell is auditioning to be established as Mercedes’ new No1 driver but is under pressure, it has been claimed.

Russell is seventh in the F1 standings, one place ahead of outgoing teammate Lewis Hamilton whose absence in 2025 will give the younger driver a chance to step into a more prominent role.

But admitting his errors at last weekend’s F1 Canadian Grand Prix - which cost him a shot of victory, although he did finish encouragingly on the podium - raised eyebrows.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said “focus George, focus” via team radio in a headline-grabbing intervention.

“I agree with the sentiment that the team can play a big role in calming their driver down, making them more confident and secure, therefore they might not push so hard or over-drive,” Naomi Schiff told the Sky F1 podcast.

“At the same time, we are talking about Formula 1 and it’s a dog eat dog world.

“The teams are going to be looking for the best possible driver.

“If they have a hint that Max Verstappen is available, or could be available, then they would be silly not to attempt to get him on board.

“George will understand that, while it might be frustrating.

“That might be why he is pushing so hard. He is thinking ‘what can I do to prove that I am enough - we have got one moment here to potentially have a victory, which we haven’t had the chance to do in many months, could this be the one thing I could do to calm them down, and turn their heads away’.

“Every performance on track is an audition for drivers to prove themselves in whatever way - whether that’s to secure a contract or be seen as the No1 driver.

“Every last drive is what people remember. So I understand why George is putting himself under pressure.

“When Toto came on the radio I thought ‘gosh’. When my team bosses came on the radio it would put the fear of god into me!

“I would think ‘what have I done?’

“I don’t know if that’s helpful. Maybe he did need that calming voice, someone to tell him to re-focus.”

Russell emerged in the same generation as Verstappen, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and co.

But Mercedes’ struggles in the past three seasons have prevented him taking a huge step forward, which his talents make him capable of.

“He did win in F2 and beat most of those drivers,” Schiff said.

“It’s a long time ago but he didn’t get the drive at the team who would give him the opportunity to shine immediately.

“He spent many years at Williams overshadowed. There were always whispers of his talent but it’s only now, at Mercedes, that he has the chance of proving against those other guys what he’s really worth.

“The car just isn’t giving him the opportunity either.”

Next year, Russell will have a new teammate when Hamilton departs.

If that is Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the burden of being the senior driver will fall to Russell.

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