Toto Wolff seeks behind closed doors ‘conversation’ with George Russell after getting upstaged by Lewis Hamilton in second season

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have been involved in a seesaw battle ever since the 25-year-old entered the team in 2022.

Russell caught pundits and fans unawares when he surged ahead of Hamilton in his debut season for the Silver Arrows despite his senior colleague ending the 2021 season as runner-up to Max Verstappen.

Toto Wolff, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. Credit:
Toto Wolff, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. Credit:

Last season, Hamilton was able to wrestle his way back as Mercedes top dog and ended the championship in third spot in the drivers’ standings, behind Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff expects plenty of more tussles to take place between Hamilton and Russell this season, especially after Mercedes has almost completely changed its design heading into the 2024 season.

Wolff was in conversation with a number of media personnel as he discussed the need to have a ‘conversation’ with Russell ahead of the 2024 season.

“We will have a good conversation,” Wolff said when asked how he hopes to resuce Russell’s slump in form after his debut season.

“Everybody needs some feedback. He’s a very strong character, and he came out of the summer very strong.

“He changed his approach a little bit, and that was good, and then it swung the other way around and Lewis performed extraordinarily well.”

The season could have ended with more points for Mercedes, but Russell ended up missing out on some crucial points during the Singapore Grand Prix.

This helped Hamilton greatly as he consolidated his third-place finish.

meanwhile, Hamilton also got disqualified from the United States Grand Prix, with Russell able to claw some points back on this occasion.

“I think these swings happen from track to track,” Wolff said.

“With these fragile cars, you can go from a very good weekend to a very bad one suddenly.”

For Wolff, the key is to treat Russell with ‘tough love’, something that he believes every sportsperson needs.

“Everybody needs an arm around the shoulder,” he said.

“I have my wife who puts an arm around my shoulder. Everybody needs an arm around them, all of the high performers.”

Russell decodes 2023 difficulties

Russell also spoke about what went wrong for him in a season that he described as ‘scrappy’.

“I’ve been on Lewis’ level, on average, throughout this year,” said Russell.

“And I’m not satisfied with just being on his level. I want to be ahead of him. But I’ve also got to be realistic.

“I’m going up against the greatest driver of all time. He’s definitely not a bad benchmark. And, you know, I think quali statistics, if you include sprint races, we’re exactly the same. And pace-wise, we’re generally the same as well.

“So there are positives. And to be honest, I’d prefer to be sat here without the results, but with the pace. Rather than saying ‘Oh, we lucked into a result here or we lucked into a result there’ when actually I was a tenth or two off the pace.”

Wolff believes that even though Russell did have a bit of a slip-up in his second season at the Silver Arrows, there is no driver duo as formidable as the one he has at his disposal.

“Yes. If we give them the right car, yes,” Wolff said.

“I think there are a few others – Max, you cannot doubt him. He’s already one of the best drivers. If you give our two a great car, I think we’re right there.”

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