Toto Wolff believes George Russell’s crash under the Safety Car at Imola is “part of the development process” that will ultimately make him a better Formula 1 driver in the future. 

Russell lost control of his Williams while trying to warm up his tyres under the Safety Car and slammed into the wall, costing him a shot of his first points finish in F1. The 22-year-old labelled the crash “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”. 

But Wolff has defended his protege, arguing that past and present Mercedes drivers including Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Rosberg have all recovered from similar errors in their careers. 

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“That is all part of the development process," Mercedes team principal Wolff said. “What makes Lewis and Valtteri so special, and before Nico, was the experience they gained.

"I think everybody needs to put a car in the wall behind the safety car. We've seen that from the most experienced ones, and making mistakes under pressure.

“And I think what George has done today, happened to the best ones. It feels awful for him right now, but it's going to sink in, be like a scar, and he's going to be a better driver in the future.” 

Russell also received messages of support from fellow F1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean. 

"George, you were giving it your all," wrote six-time champion Hamilton.

"It's ok to make mistakes and it's ok to feel the pain. I've made more than I can remember. You're great bud. Keep your head up and keep pushing, on to the next one.”

Meanwhile, Grosjean, who himself crashed behind the Safety Car at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, said: "Man, I know the feeling. Will take some time to forget it, but what you do is mega. Keep pushing."