Toto Wolff has told George Russell he will not tolerate the new Mercedes driver crossing any “boundaries” when he races for the team next year.
Russell has been chosen to partner Lewis Hamilton for the team that has dominated Formula 1 since 2014 – although their supremacy is being severely tested by Red Bull this season.
Whether Mercedes go into the sport’s new era, with revamped regulations, still as World Champions or not, Wolff has no intention of allowing Russell to come in and displace the harmonious dynamic Hamilton has enjoyed with Valtteri Bottas.
That relationship has certainly been a huge improvement on the toxic atmosphere between the drivers in the last year or two when Nico Rosberg was with the team.
While the team principal recognises Russell is mature enough to know which side his bread is buttered, he is nevertheless urging the 23-year-old to remember the big picture even if he will arrive with huge ambitions of creating his own success.
“George Russell is another intelligent young man,” Wolff told the Daily Mail.
“He will slot into the team but that doesn’t mean he has to hold back when driving. You can’t expect a lion in the car and a puppy out of it.
“But there are certain boundaries within the team that must be respected and George knows them very well.
“Once the lights are green, only the drivers are responsible. I can’t interfere, manage or remote-control them, but one thing is of ultimate importance – don’t touch. That’s your responsibility. You can race hard, but no contact.”
The team principal has said previously he believes Russell could be capable of challenging for the World Championship from year one with Mercedes, but insists personal aspirations must not come at the expense of the team as a whole.
“I’ve been there before with Nico when it wasn’t just a rivalry,” said Wolff. “There was a lot of animosity and that’s not going to happen.
“This is about showing respect for each other and it can be hard because if you race on the same spot on the racetrack you will eventually come across each other, but there is an integrity we expect that nobody is ever bigger than the team.
“The drivers know that. You represent 2,000 people who work for us and 350,000 people who work for Mercedes. So again, you are the solar system and Mercedes the star — and that’s the sun.”
Planet F1 verdict