‘George is our future’ – Wolff lauds Russell despite challenging 2023 season at Mercedes
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has underlined his faith in George Russell following the Briton’s mixed 2023 campaign, stating that there is no other young driver in F1 that he would want to sign instead.
After three years bedding in at Williams, Russell stepped up to Mercedes for 2022 and, while the team struggled to adapt to the sport’s new ground effect era, he caught the eye with a maiden pole position and Grand Prix win in Hungary and Brazil respectively.
Russell also out-scored experienced team mate Lewis Hamilton at the first time of asking, but the tables were turned last time around as the seven-time world champion claimed six of Mercedes’s eight podiums and finished almost 60 points ahead in the drivers’ standings.
However, following Hamilton's shock move to Ferrari for 2025, Russell could well be taking a leading role at Mercedes for the future, and he has Wolff's backing. Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with The Telegraph prior to the announcement of Hamilton's Ferrari switch, Wolff brushed off Russell’s relative struggles and made clear that he has “absolutely met the team’s expectations”.
“George is our future, and you know, when I look at all the young men, of the current Formula 1 drivers, he’s the one I would want to have in a car,” said Wolff, with Russell signed up at Mercedes through 2025.
Russell himself recently took time to reflect on the year gone by, explaining that he will be using the winter break for a thorough analysis after feeling that he “upped my game” in terms of qualifying and race pace but did not necessarily have the results to show for it.
“It’s been a season where we’ve had a lot of pace at times, but never achieved the results that I felt were deserved, or were possible, so we definitely need to try and understand why that was,” said Russell.
“There’s been a huge amount of missed opportunities, in many regards. It really hasn’t been a smooth season, but I think when everything’s flowing, when everything’s working, luck tends to be on your side.
“When you’re on the backfoot, you tend to have bad luck. I’m not one for believing in luck, I think you make your own luck, so we just need to be faster and Lady Luck will be with us.”
As for how Mercedes could fare in 2024 – and having previously compared the task of getting back to winning ways in F1 to climbing Mount Everest, given Red Bull’s recent dominance – Wolff expressed more optimism as the new season edges closer.
“Always believe it’s possible,” he commented. “You cannot start the season with an attitude of ‘This is not going to be possible’. We saw last year with McLaren, what a huge step they made with a single upgrade.”
After eight successive constructors’ titles from 2014 to 2021, Mercedes finished third and second respectively in 2022 and 2023, while last year marked the first time they have gone a full campaign without a race victory since 2011.