Mercedes boss Toto Wolff takes swipe at Max Verstappen while talking up George Russell

Lando Norris loves the Hamilton and Verstappen drama

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Toto Wolff has taken a jab at Red Bull rival Max Verstappen, insisting Mercedes’ George Russell is more “intellectual” behind the wheel than the Dutchman. The two Formula One teams have contested various verbal battles over the past 12 months in particular with the rivalry between Wolff and fellow team principal Christian Horner, of Red Bull, having become one of the sport’s major talking points.

It was Red Bull who got the last laugh last season as Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That clinched his first Drivers’ Championship and denied Hamilton a record-breaking eighth title.

Mercedes were still able to clinch an eighth successive Constructors’ Championship having dominated the sport in the turbo hybrid engine era, with Hamilton winning six of an available eight driver’s titles in that time, only losing out to Nico Rosberg in 2016 and Verstappen last year.

Hamilton and Mercedes are currently lagging behind in 2022, with the new season having gotten underway in Bahrain last Sunday, even though the Briton secured a podium finish and Verstappen did not. The Silver Arrows’ car is clearly slower than both Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s challengers.

But that hasn’t stopped Wolff taking a dig at Verstappen while talking about Mercedes’ new arrival Russell, who finished fourth in his first race for the team in Sakhir. The Austrian thinks the 24-year-old is more diligent in his driving, even though he’s only the same age as Verstappen.

Speaking to GQ Magazine, Wolff explained. “I think Max’s approach – and this is George’s phrase since he was in go-karting – is ‘win it or bin it’. George approaches it more from an intellectual standpoint while having all the skills.”

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But Wolff is still expecting some occasional challenges with Russell, who is desperate to join both Hamilton and Verstappen as an eventual world champion.

He added: “You can’t tell a man that has been in a go-kart from the age of six, having been sent out in the rain alone, that ‘now you’re a part of the team, you need to drive for the team’. It’s ingrained in them to be alone out there – to be opportunistic.”

Russell said: “The fact is, Lewis and I have a good relationship. They’ll twist my words slightly to blurb a headline, such as me trying to take Lewis’ crown away or whatever. But I don’t feel like that. I’m in F1 because I want to be world champion, that’s obvious. And if I’m going to be world champion, I’ve got to beat everyone – Lewis included.”

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