George Russell turned down Toto Wolff’s Mercedes contract offer after intense conversation

Mercedes driver George Russell has had to contend with playing second fiddle to the team’s elder statesman Lewis Hamilton for much of this season.

While much of the attention has been on whether Hamilton will commit his short-term future at the Silver Arrows, Russell himself has spoken about rejecting an offer he received from Toto Wolff.

The event took place well before Russell was inducted into the Mercedes junior programme in 2017.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. Credit:
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. Credit:

A couple of years before that, Wolff had already seen the talent that Russell had to offer and had initiated a meeting with the driver.

Wolff advised the youngster on how he should look at his career trajectory and Wolff was so impressed with him that he even offered a contract that was as good as the one he already had.

While Russell respected the offer put forward by Wolff, he was quick to turn him down, suggesting that he was happy with how things were shaping up at Volkswagen.

Back then, Russell was one of the hottest prospects on the European F3 circuit.

Russell’s decision to turn down Wolff’s offer was largely to do with the fact that it would allow him to continue competing for British outfit Carlin as opposed to the German Mucke Motorsport that Wolff was suggesting.

Wolff immediately felt that Russell had made the wrong career choice, but such was his ability behind the wheel that he maintained contact with the driver till 2017, when Russell eventually caved in to the Austrian’s words and signed for Mercedes’ junior driver programme.

“I was already having conversations with Toto and Mercedes prior to joining Carlin and Volkswagen,” Russell said.

“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 Mucke 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.

“’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.’”

As things stand now, Russell is regarded as the future of Mercedes, with Hamilton very much in the twilight of his career.

Russell’s current deal with Mercedes runs till the end of the 2025 season, but it is widely expected that he will race for them into the new power unit regulations in 2026.

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