Toto Wolff has offered his thoughts on why George Russell has recently struggled to match the performances of Lewis Hamilton.
While the young British driver has been a close match for Lewis Hamilton throughout most of their 18 months together, Russell has found it a little more difficult through the middle part of the 2023 season – coinciding with the introduction of upgrades to the W14.
But Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff doubts the upgrades are the primary cause of Russell’s recent travails, and says it could be simply down to his confidence levels with the car.
Toto Wolff: It’s easy to lose confidence in the W14
Speaking to media, including PlanetF1.com, during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Wolff was asked whether the current upgrade direction has moved the goalposts away from Russell’s preferred driving requirements and perhaps is suiting Hamilton’s driving style more.
“I don’t know. These cars are on the knife’s edge,” Wolff said.
“You can quickly fall off it and lose the confidence. On the other side, if you’re within that corridor of sweet spot… having said that, that car has no sweet spot!
“But being more in that zone of understanding what it will do next, I think there’s a big difference and you can quickly be in either one of these situations, and obviously it goes against you.”
George Russell welcoming summer break
Having struggled at Spa, particularly for single-lap pace, Russell admitted things feel as though they’ve been moving away from him.
“I think this weekend validated probably the direction we’ve taken the setup in recent races hasn’t been the right one,” Russell said after the race.
“We suffered with a huge amount of bouncing today. A number of teams did, maybe not as severe as we did.
“Still obviously a bit of a shame to see that as a sport. At the pinnacle, the majority of teams are still struggling with bouncing. I hope something can be solved in that regard in the future.”
The British driver also explained that he doesn’t feel quite on top of things heading into the summer shutdown.
“When you’re on the right foot, things are a little bit easier. You’re not stressing, your car is in the right place when you put it on the ground,” he said.
“I’m sure we’re going to be strong in the second half of the season. We’ve got some little things coming in after the break. I’m confident we can secure that second-best team… to try and close that gap further.”
Is Russell welcoming the chance to switch off and reset for the second half?
“Yeah, definitely ready for it. It’s been a season of two halves,” he said.
“The first six races were really strong. The last six races, not so much. I’ve a few ideas why that is, a lot of missed opportunities this season, for various reasons.
“Some from mistakes of my own, some like the failure in Australia cost me a lot of points. But, nevertheless, if you’re not fighting for the P1 in the Drivers’ Championship, you just want to maximise the Constructors’ and, so far, we’re doing that.
“It’s needed, this break, for everybody in the sport – it has been a pretty intense start to the season.”