Toto Wolff believes George Russell could be Mercedes’ next team leader – but Eddie Jordan isn’t so sure after Lewis Hamilton got the better of him last season.
Mercedes have begun the search for a new driver for the 2025 season after Hamilton announced he’d be swapping silver for red at the end of this year having signed a multi-year deal with Ferrari.
While the news came as a surprise to team boss Wolff, who was told about Hamilton’s decision over breakfast the day before the announcements went out, the Austrian now has to get on with the business of finding a replacement driver.
Can George Russell lead Mercedes to the F1 title?
The not-so-short list – at least according to pundits and F1’s rumour mill – includes Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel with the names of Mercedes proteges Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher also in the hat.
In fact, any driver who doesn’t have a 2025 contract could potentially be in the mix, although Wolff has been told by former driver Christian Danner not to let something like a contract get in the way of signing the best.
And that’s exactly what Wolff wants as he spoke about getting the “best possible combination” for Mercedes, yet he is not in a rush to sign anyone as he reckons he has a ready-made team leader in Russell.
Former F1 team boss Jordan isn’t as confident in Russell’s ability to win a title for Mercedes.
“Let’s be honest, George Russell has won one grand prix,” Jordan told the Formula For Success podcast. “Do I think he can be a World Champion next year or the year after?
“I just think that Lewis had too much on him.
“When Lewis didn’t quite have the car that he wanted at the beginning of the year, George was able to drive around that.
“Lewis didn’t bother because… not that he didn’t bother, but he just didn’t feel that the car was good enough to be able to do the job.
“But, nevertheless, as the season progressed, Lewis got his mojo together. And he made us all look up and say, ‘Hmm, maybe Lewis still has it.’
“And I think that because of the change in fortune, that’s why he went to Ferrari.”
Toto Wolff backs George Russell to be ‘lead driver’ at Mercedes
Jordan may not have confidence in Russell to lead Mercedes, but Wolff does.
Speaking to the media including PlanetF1.com the day after Hamilton’s announcement, he said: “With all the Lewis discussion, something that has not been talked about enough is George,” he added.
“George has the potential to be the next lead driver in the team. He is of the generation of Lando [Norris] and [Charles] Leclerc and some of the others.
“I couldn’t wish for a new team leader when Lewis leaves, no doubt about that.
“We have such a solid foundation, such a quick, talented, and intelligent guy in the car that we just need to take the right choice for the second driver, the second seat.”
Believing in Russell, the Austrian added that he has no reason to be “rushed” into signing his team-mate.