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‘The single dumbest thing I’ve done’ – Wolff reflects on ‘embarrassing’ radio message that ‘could have taken’ Russell out of Austrian GP

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George Russell was the beneficiary of Lando Norris and Max Verstappen’s dramatic crash in the Austrian Grand Prix, swooping in to take the race win. But according to Team Principal Toto Wolff, a mistimed and emotional radio message to Russell nearly undid all of the Briton’s hard work.

Russell was running some 15 seconds off the lead pair of Verstappen and Norris as he entered Lap 64 of 71 of the race at the Red Bull Ring, when those two drivers collided at Turn 3, with both suffering punctures.

READ MORE: Russell ecstatic after ‘picking up the pieces’ from Verstappen/Norris collision to claim second Grand Prix win

But as Russell himself was exiting Turn 3 while Norris and Verstappen were limping around the rest of the lap ahead of him, an impassioned Wolff came on the radio to encourage his charge, telling Russell: “George you can win this – you can win this George!”

“Just let me f***ing drive,” came the curt response from Russell – with Wolff apologising to Russell after he’d swept across the line to take Mercedes’ first win since his triumph in the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix.

“My bad speaking through your braking, it just… got me,” chuckled Wolff, as Russell replied: “You got very excited there Toto, very excited!”

2024 Austrian Grand Prix: Russell snaps at Wolff after taking the lead in Austria

Wolff later chided himself in his Sunday evening media session, as he called the radio message “embarrassing”.

“I think I know the drivers pretty well and what they need at times to encourage or to re-focus, because I spend so much time with them,” said Wolff. “So I think I know their psychology. But this one is the single dumbest thing I've done in 12 years in Mercedes.

READ MORE: ‘The entire world knows who is responsible’ – Stella weighs in on Verstappen/Norris Austria clash as he makes 2021 comparison

“I will be forever ashamed of this, because you look at where you message the driver. You don't do it on braking, or in high-speed corners. But I didn't look on the GPS [to see] where he was, I just saw these two taking each other out and we anticipated it, and then I just emotionally pushed the button and said 'we can win this'.

“I could have taken him out with that message – imagine,” added Wolff ruefully. “I'm emotional, I enjoy us doing well, and I enjoy seeing Lewis [Hamilton] and George doing well. I was just carried away with that situation, and I think that's what [George] said afterwards. But seriously… embarrassing.”

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 30: Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff celebrates with Race winner

Win in the bag, Russell and Wolff were able to laugh about the incident

Meanwhile, despite good fortune having played a large part in Mercedes’ first win in a year and a half, Wolff said that the team’s “upward trend” in recent races had given him hopes of the Silver Arrows scoring a victory on genuine pace in the coming races.

“On pace, we were the third-quickest car, and we've been this for the last three weekends, and that is very encouraging to see the upward trend, and the consolidation of the trend,” said Wolff.

READ MORE: ‘I feel let down’ – Norris says Verstappen ‘in the wrong’ as both drivers give their take on Austria clash

“But the racing happens on Sunday, and… today we benefitted from the incident in the front. It's just good to have that win in your pocket this year.

“It means there's four teams that won races this year, and it's been just one year, [2023], where we haven't won a race since 2012, and that is good to know. And certainly big momentum now in the team to go to a point where we're able on real performance to fight for a win – and I think we will be.”

Fourth-placed Mercedes’ 45 points from the Austria weekend – the most of any team – saw them close the gap to third-placed McLaren to 72 points.

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