Toto Wolff decodes McLaren’s George Russell message and highlights ‘killer’ blow

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver George Russell on the mic with Toto Wolff.

Toto Wolff explained the "killer" that cost George Russell pace and positions in Mexico.

Warning Lando Norris that George Russell was “all or nothing”, Toto Wolff surmises McLaren’s message to their driver in Mexico was to tell him “don’t crash we need those points”.

Starting Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix 17th on the grid to Russell’s P8, it was Norris who had the better pace throughout the 71 laps than his compatriot.

Pulling off passes on Alex Albon, Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo, Norris worked his way up to sixth place behind Russell.

George Russell was overtaken by Lando Norris for P5

“We know what Russell is like, he’s all or nothing. So you just have patience with him,” was the message from the McLaren pit wall.

Norris showed little of that as, all over the back of Russell’s rear wing, he looked around the outside of the Mercedes driver but Russell blocked that off only to run a bit too deep.

That opened the door for Norris to pull a switchback move with the McLaren driver quick to hog the racing line and close off any opportunity for Russell to fight back.

Wolff was asked for his thoughts on that message and whether it was a sign of respect toward his driver.

“I think that these two have probably had that race situation hundreds of times in their life so they will have known what to do,” he said.

“I think it was more of a message like don’t crash we need those points.”

The team boss believes Russell’s efforts on Sunday were hampered by tyre issues with the Briton having hounded Carlos Sainz before being forced to back off when his tyres began to overheat.

But cooling the rubber, Russell wasn’t able to regain grip and as a result lost pace and a position.

“I think we need to understand what actually happened to George because he was pushing very, very strong behind Sainz, but so did Lewis,” he said.

“I think probably the killer was backing off. And that is also a theory that the tyre just dropped and he wasn’t able to revitalise it.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 Driver of the Day: Who has won the award in F1 2023?

F1 2023: Head-to-head qualifying and race stats between team-mates

As for Russell, reflecting on his race he blamed the tyres for his troubles.

“Story of the weekend, tyres. It was really frustrating, I felt really great after the red flag,” he said.

“I was right behind Carlos, couldn’t quite make the overtake and we had to back off because my brakes were overheating, and we were concerned we wouldn’t make it to the end.

“And as soon as we backed off, I lost all the temperature in my tyres and I just couldn’t recover the grip, and it was like a survival to the finish line, I was lucky to finish in P6.”

Russell remains eighth in the Drivers’ Championship up to 151 points, 15 behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Read next: Mexican GP driver ratings: Fan favourites star, home favourite flops