George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Although set to work closely in 2022, George Russell and Toto Wolff did not always agree on everything. The 23-year-old has been lined up for a Mercedes F1 seat since he was a teenager, and he is set to join up with the Silver Arrows ahead of the upcoming season.
Russell first entered F1 with Williams in 2019, which kickstarted a three-year spell that saw him struggle towards the back of the pack.
But that was as much to do with the team’s pace as anything else, and he still impressed with how he fared relative to his team-mates.
Russell also nurtured a reputation as someone who could find an extra gear in qualifying, which is part of the reason he has remained on Wolff’s radar, even if his race results failed to grab headlines.
With Valtteri Bottas switching to Alfa Romeo, Mercedes finally decided it was time to pull the trigger at the end of the 2021 season, handing Russell an opportunity which he gladly accepted.
But the Englishman has not always been so receptive to what Wolff has to offer, as he recalled an instance in European F3 when he opted to go in a different direction.
“I was already having conversations with Toto and Mercedes prior to joining Carlin and Volkswagen,” he told Motorsport Magazine.
“I actually had a deal on the table to have almost the same backing from Mercedes as I had from Volkswagen.
“But because there wasn’t an opportunity open at PREMA, the next team I would have had to join would be a German team called Mücke Motorsport, who I felt for my first season F3 wouldn’t be as well suited to me as a British team in Carlin.
“So after my meeting with Toto at the start of 2015, I sent him an email just to say, ‘I really appreciate the meeting and thanks for all of your advice etc. Just to let you know, I’ll actually be joining Carlin and Volkswagen as opposed to Mücke Motorsport and Mercedes because I believe it’s better for my career.’
“And I had the opinion that if I went out and did a good job, Mercedes would still be interested.
“So he replied back, ‘I think you’re making a wrong decision but let’s stay in touch and let’s see where we go from there.’”
Despite their early disagreement, the duo would not have to wait many years before igniting their professional relationship.
Russell became part of Mercedes’ junior driver programme in 2017, and Wolff was integral in the deal which took him to Williams two years later.
With Russell set to take up a hugely sought after seat for the coming season, one of the major remaining questions concerns who will partner him.
Not much has been heard from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton since losing out on the 2021 title in Abu Dhabi, and Wolff refused to rule out his retirement.
Hamilton’s decision could depend on the outcome of an FIA enquiry into race director Michael Masi, and the controversial final lap decision-making which cost him an eighth individual crown.
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