Mercedes’ strategy boss praises George Russell’s ‘incredibly good job’ in 2022

Thomas Maher
Mercedes driver George Russell after qualifying. Hungary July 2022.

George Russell waves to the crowd after taking his first career pole position in Formula 1. Hungary July 2022.

Mercedes’ James Vowles has spoken about the strengths George Russell revealed during the course of his first year with the team.

Russell stepped up to life at Mercedes with aplomb in 2022, having spent three years toiling away in the lower depths of the field during his time with Williams.

Embarking on a streak of top-five finishes that didn’t come to an end until a first lap collision at Silverstone, Russell also managed to secure Mercedes’ only victory of the season when he led home Lewis Hamilton at the Sao Paolo Grand Prix towards the end of the year.

Finishing ahead of Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship at the first time of asking, it looked to be a season worthy of praise from the higher-ups at Mercedes – praise which was forthcoming as Mercedes’ head of strategy James Vowles reviewed the year.

“I think, on the whole, it doesn’t really take us to tell you this, but George did a very good job this year,” he said in a Mercedes debrief.

“He is against the best in the world and that’s your reference. What is very clear is that, at the beginning of the year when we had a car that was difficult, Lewis was using his wealth of experience to help us in order to improve the car, and to really move us forward as part of the team.

“George, in that period of time, was just really focused on learning and embedding himself into the team. And he scored a number of results really that benefited him, as a result of that.

“Irrespective, his qualifying pace, I think is within zero [percent] of where Lewis ended up. His race pace was very, very strong throughout the year.”

James Vowles: George Russell fit well into the team

Aside from single lap pace, a key component of gauging Russell’s success was in the area of team harmony and ensuring that he fit well into the existing dynamic of a very successful outfit.

“That’s really what we’re looking for… how does he fit into our environment?” Vowles said.

“How does he fit into the team? How does he work with Lewis? How does he work with everyone else? In all of those, he did an incredibly good job.

“It was a big step up from him from Williams. I think, where Williams operate is obviously very high level, where we operate is a little bit different to that. But I think he adapted very quickly and very well.”

Toto Wolff: George Russell has what I hoped for

Having taken the decision to promote Russell up from Williams during 2021, having observed him for three years while the young British driver worked for the Grove-based squad, team boss Toto Wolff was similarly ebullient about his new charge.

Joining Tom Clarkson on the Beyond the Grid podcast, Wolff looked back over the 2022 season with Hamilton and Russell, but was reluctant to comment on Russell’s achievement of beating Hamilton in the qualifying battle over the season.

“Stats are useless,” he said.

“Because sometimes things swing by a few hundredths in one or the other direction. Race strategies favour one driver and not the other. We make mistakes in pitstops or Safety Cars come out at opportune [times] or less so.

“If we take out the results that were within a tenth, then maybe the score is a different one. So Lewis won the qualifying competition, George won the points competition… zero relevance. The car is not good enough to win regularly and challenge for the championship, and this is what matters.”

It was Russell’s overall attitude to his big opportunity that impressed Wolff the most: “Confident but not overconfident, respectful, but still challenging.

“And what I have hoped for in terms of the attitude and the speed.”

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