‘Over-delivering’ Russell confirmed F1 potential with Sakhir GP drive - Wolff

Toto Wolff says George Russell’s performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix confirmed the British driver as a F1 star of the future.
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid.
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid.
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Toto Wolff says George Russell’s performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix confirmed the British driver as a Formula 1 star of the future.

Russell was on course to win in Sakhir having taken the lead on Lap 1 until a tyre mix-up when he pit under the Safety Car.

Mercedes fit Valtteri Bottas’ allocated tyres to Russell’s Mercedes forcing him into a second pit stop to avoid a potential disqualification.

Even despite this second stop, Russell sliced his way through the field from fifth to second on new medium tyres, including an overtake on Bottas around the outside of Turn 6.

Russell was closing in on Sergio Perez for the lead of the race but then suffered a puncture, dropping him back down the field where he eventually finished the race in ninth. 

Reflecting on Russell’s performance as Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in for this weekend, Wolff said the 22-year-old consistently “over-delivered”.

“By saying that we don’t expect anything better than a top-five, I wanted to take pressure off him because the truth is he’s not in a championship fight,” Wolff said. “Our team has done it already and this is about learning, working in a new environment and having a little bit more pressure.

“I think the pressure was so enormous on the Friday, so we felt taking it away a little bit would be good. I think we were confirmed today about his potential.

“We didn’t want to set expectations high and he over-delivered, and over-delivered, and over-delivered. He over-delivered on Friday, he over-delivered yesterday in qualifying in just a few hundredths away from Valtteri and he over-delivered today. His racing was unbelievable.”

While Russell wasn’t able to secure the standout result, Wolff believes he demonstrated he has “all the ingredients that a future star needs” to succeed in F1 with the level of performance he showed in his first outing for Mercedes. 

“He got off the starting line with the best reaction time in a car that isn’t built for him, that is much too small with paddles that didn’t fit his hands and he got into the lead and drove a brilliant race, and could have won twice,” Wolff added. “This is not the same as Spain [2016] where we learned as a team when we are in a tough fight for the championship.

“I wouldn’t want the radio to fail and we learnt that George Russell is someone to count on the future. He has all the potential and all the ingredients that a future star needs. In that respect, I am sad for the result that he could have had in his first race for Mercedes but on the other side, I am happy about his performances.”

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