Toto Wolff explains Mercedes driver swap as George Russell finishes behind Lewis Hamilton

Henry Valantine
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, pictured at Imola.

Toto Wolff has explained why George Russell pitted for a second time at Imola, eventually finishing behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the chequered flag.

Russell had been ahead of Hamilton for the majority of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, but pitted a second time while Hamilton and the majority of the grid stayed on a one-stop strategy, meaning Russell ended the race seventh, one place behind the seven-time World Champion.

Toto Wolff explains Mercedes call to pit George Russell a second time at Imola

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

While Russell was able to close up a significant portion of the time he lost in the pit lane come the chequered flag, Wolff revealed that Mercedes’ wear forecasts had placed Russell short of reaching the chequered flag on the set of tyres he had.

With Sergio Perez looking to charge through the field for Red Bull, Mercedes spotted an opportunity to keep Russell ahead of Perez and earn the bonus point for fastest lap in the process.

Wolff admitted sixth and seventh is a result the team are “frustrated” by, but they are looking to keep bringing improvements to their car moving forward.

“It’s not possible to see it in terms of the result, but we have taken a small step forward this weekend,” Wolff said after the race.

“Our closest competitors have also done so recently, but we have closed the gap to the front a little. We still have a lot of work to do and of course, we are all frustrated finishing P6 and P7.

“There is more to come though, and it is all about making incremental gains. These are what we need to keep delivering if we are to get ourselves in the fight with the three teams ahead of us.

What has changed for the teams following the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix?

👉 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (Imola) – race results and latest F1 standings

👉 F1 2024: Head-to-head race statistics between team-mates

“With George’s second stop, our wear forecasts showed that he may struggle to make it last to the end of the race on the hard tyre.

“We had the opportunity to pit and get out ahead of Perez, and therefore opted to stop him. That also enabled us to go for the fastest lap point. It cost George a place to Lewis but ultimately the team was able to score an additional point.”

For Russell himself, he would not allow himself to get too down by losing out on a position in this manner – but while he felt it was “losing the position for the sake of it” in the immediate aftermath of the race, he wouldn’t lose sleep over it given it was not for a major placing in the race.

“As a driver, you want to finish [in] the highest position possible and all weekend I’d being ahead of my team-mate,” Russell told media including PlanetF1.com after the chequered flag.

“I was ahead the whole race comfortably, and then that was sort of just losing the position for the sake of it.

“So we’ve got the extra point, but as I said, I’m not going to sulk about it tonight. It’s P6, it’s not for a podium or victory.”

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