George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Toto Wolff is keen to avoid a repeat of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s bitter rivalry when George Russell joins Mercedes next season. Russell was announced as Hamilton’s partner for 2022 with Valtteri Bottas switching to Alfa Romeo.
The decision to sign the 23-year-old has led to suggestions that an all-British pairing could be explosive in a similar vein to Rosberg and Hamilton’s partnership.
The friends-turned-foes endured a fruitful but tumultuous few seasons as teammates from 2013 to 2016, with their intrateam rivalry causing Mercedes plenty of headaches.
The two world champions collided several times, including famously at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, and team principal Wolff is desperate to avoid a similar situation when Russell arrives at the Silver Arrows.
“[Russell has] proven that he deserves to have a seat in a top car and now we need to get him properly adjusted into the Mercedes situation,” Wolff admitted.
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“There’s a lot more pressure, he’s having an unbelievable teammate with the biggest records and it’s important that you condition him and you calibrate him in the right way.
“We’ve seen situations in the past where they’ve failed; Lewis was part of one where I think the team didn’t quite understand how it could potentially go, and I think we’re maybe a little bit better prepared for that situation.
“But nevertheless, he has all the ambition to be a future world champion and so has Lewis, to add another one, so it’s about calibration.”
While Hamilton is nearing the end of his career and still hunting world titles, Wolff is confident Russell can become a champion with Mercedes.
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However, the team principal is prioritising a good relationship between the two drivers.
“I think you have to respect also the other guy’s perspective, and ambition,” Wolff said.
“We are not going to put a driver in the car who is not going to have the ambition to do as good as possible to kick his team mate as hard as he can, win races and championships early too, and that’s clear.
“So I can put myself into his perspective, so I’m trying to discuss with him what that means for the team dynamic, what it could mean, how we need to keep the momentum in the team. And he’s very intelligent, he gets that.”
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With new regulations set to shake up the grid coming into play next season, Wolff is hoping Mercedes will be in the top three cars and competing for victories.
He also insisted Hamilton and Russell will be on equal terms: “He has the same car that Lewis has, he has the pace, in qualifying he is very, very fast, and I’m sure it’s going to be fine.”
Formula 1 returns for the Russian Grand Prix on September 26 with Max Verstappen holding a slender five-point lead over Hamilton.
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