Wolff not discounting late title charge from Russell

Jon Wilde
George Russell celebrates pole position for the Hungarian GP. Hungaroring July 2022.

Toto Wolff is not ruling out a late title charge from George Russell if he can convert Hungarian Grand Prix pole position into victory.

The Mercedes driver came from nowhere to snatch pole at the Hungaroring just when Ferrari thought they had clinched a front-row lockout through Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

But on a day when big improvements in lap time were possible on a circuit evolving following heavy rain during the early part of FP3, Russell came along in the dying stages of Q3 to beat Sainz by just over four hundredths of a second.

It gave the grid a refreshing look with Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez down in 10th and 11th after enduring difficult qualifying sessions, the World Champion reporting his car was short of power in Q3.

Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes, meanwhile, is set to start seventh after encountering a DRS issue.

Russell has enjoyed a highly consistent season with the reigning Constructors’ champions, having finished in the top five at 11 of the first 12 races, although with a highest placing of third.

He trails Verstappen by 90 points in the standings, but his team principal Wolff does not necessarily see that as being an insurmountable deficit with 10 races still to go even though this has been a remarkably difficult season by Mercedes’ lofty standards.

Asked if a title challenge was still possible, Wolff told Sky F1: “It’s so difficult to say because we are a very big points gap behind Max, like everyone else, but then you can see how quickly it goes today when they are out of the fight at the front.

“We will never give up. We doubt all the time, we oscillate between depression and exuberance and that’s what makes the sport so tough and on the other side so exciting. I wouldn’t discount anything if we were able to win tomorrow.”

As for whether Russell genuinely does have a chance of beating the speedy Ferraris and gaining his first F1 win at the Hungaroring, Wolff added: “Yeah, I think so.

“You know we haven’t been in the hunt for wins this season. We know how quick Ferrari were all the time. Charles (Leclerc) was solid in the lead at the last race [before crashing out].

“Max is a bit further behind, which is also not bad for an end result. So I think he (Russell) will be highly motivated, as will Lewis.”