Toto Wolff has backed his 2022 driver, George Russell, to take the lead at the start of the Russian GP with Lewis Hamilton following him through.
Russell will be starting Sunday’s race at the Sochi circuit from third place on the grid, the Williams driver one of the stars in the changing conditions during qualifying.
It turned out to be a qualifying result that shocked the entire paddock, Lando Norris grabbed pole position ahead of Carlos Sainz with Russell P3.
Hamilton, who had a small crash as he entered the pits which cost him dearly in the final minutes of Q3, will be starting fourth on the grid.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see George in the lead after Turn 2,” Wolff told reporters at Sochi, “and it would also be fun to watch.
“If Lewis also manages to gain positions, we would have the present and the future of the team in the top two.”
The Mercedes motorsport boss added: “Seriously, he was the protagonist of a great performance, taking the risk of entering first to put on the slick tyres.
“Otherwise he would still have been eighth or ninth place, but he and Williams were not satisfied, and they pushed hard to get and look for the best result, and that’s what he then did .”
P3!!! Amazing job from the team. Let’s go for it tomorrow. 👊
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) September 25, 2021
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But while Wolff reckons Russell could be the one to beat, at least early in the race, pole-sitter Norris is wary of the challenge that Mercedes will pose.
The Brackley squad was expected to lock out the front row only for Hamilton’s mistake to cost both the Brit and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas time in the pits.
“Mercedes is still damn fast and this is traditionally one of their best tracks,” the McLaren driver said as per F1-Insider. “We have a chance and I’ll do my best, but it’ll be a challenge
“Dan said confidently last time: ‘I’ll win this thing!’ And then did it. Maybe I should learn something from there. Usually I’m always a little more reserved.”
As for Sainz, his first target is beating Norris to the first corner.
“It’s going to be good fun, a ‘Carlando’ front row as someone told me,” he said. “It’s going to be good fun. We’ve shared rows many times but never the front row.
“I’m going to try and pass him, I’m not going to lie, I’m just going to go for it and see if I can get in the lead. It would be very nice and I’m going to try.”