Wolff says there’s ‘no rules and no confusion’ over how Russell should race Mercedes drivers in the future
George Russell announced in the aftermath of his collision with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that he would treat both Bottas and Lewis Hamilton as “team mates” on track from now on, given his status as a Mercedes protégé. But both Russell, and Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff, refuted claims that there were now ‘rules of engagement’ for the young Briton to follow.
Russell caused a media storm immediately after the pair's Imola crash when he suggested that Bottas had defended more fiercely given that Russell is tipped as a Mercedes star of the future.
Russell later apologised for his comments, while telling the media ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix that, while there were no official rules of engagement he now had to follow, “I would not be in the position I am today without the support of Mercedes… and as consequence, Lewis and Valtteri are team mates of sorts to me”.
And Wolff clarified Mercedes’ position on Russell’s ability to race against the Silver Arrows’ cars – and also the conversations held between the pair following the crash – during the Team Principals’ press conference in Portugal. “There is no confusion on any side, and there are no rules for any of the drivers. It was just us giving feedback,” said Wolff.
“I think I want most of [the conversations] to stay confidential because I had discussions with both of the drivers. Drivers have to go for a gap, and sometimes it's evaluating whether it's taking a risk or not. I guess that a young driver will always go for the possibility and nothing else is expected.
“Then the question is, is there enough reaction time to take to evaluate who is the other car? I think not. So in a way, there is never 100% blame on one and zero on the other one. It's probably always much more nuanced and I'm really happy about the conversation we had.”
Meanwhile, a question on whether Russell treating Hamilton and Bottas as team mates amounted to collusion between Mercedes and Williams drew a frosty reply from Wolff, who said: “I don't know what I should really respond to such a question. I have no response” – with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner stepping in to offer his experience of managing on-track battles between Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s drivers, given both teams are backed by the same Red Bull parent company.
“In Red Bull's case, all drivers are Red Bull Racing drivers, and [some are] assigned obviously to AlphaTauri,” said Horner, “but there's no instruction to work effectively as one team. There's a request to respect the fellow members, but that's it, they're free to race and race each other hard as we've seen on numerous occasions, but there's no instruction to collude or anything along those lines.”