Telling George Russell after he stuck his Mercedes W13 on pole in Hungary that his lap was “not sh*t”, Toto Wolff says that is high praise as far as he is concerned.
Russell surprised many in the paddock, including his rivals, when he qualified P1 at the Hungaroring.
After weeks in which Mercedes had taken small steps forward, the team seemingly eradicating their porpoising problems, Russell laid down a 1:17.377 to grab pole position by 0.044s over Carlos Sainz.
It was not only Mercedes’ first pole position of this season but also the team’s first front-row start.
Speaking to Russell as he made his way to parc ferme, Wolff told his driver his lap was “not sh*t”.
The team boss says that was praise, not criticism.
“I said ‘not sh*t’ on my radio,” he said, quoted by GPFans. “That’s pretty high up in my scale, by the way. That is not negative.
“It was quite an interesting experience because we knew it was going quick. On our used soft [tyres], it was already quite competitive.
“We put on the new tyres, then the first sector came in and we saw the delta time running and I remember saying to the engineers ‘I think we are playing for pole here’ and that was silence on the other side.
“After sector two, yes, it was going to be fully tight. It’s these moments you cherish so much in Formula 1. They come so unexpected, but the performance is really there and you do it.”
George Russell is the type of guy to apologise for getting pole 😆
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 30, 2022
Pole for George Russell but Mercedes are not a match for Red Bull or Ferrari just yet
Despite bagging pole position in Hungary, Russell had to settle for third place in the race as the Briton was unable to hold off Max Verstappen or even Charles Leclerc.
Mercedes have without a doubt taken huge strides forward over the past few races, the team’s pace helped by their lack of porpoising.
That’s was the W13’s Achilles heel in the opening rounds of the championship as the bouncing forced Mercedes to give up downforce in order to protect the drivers.
Now on top of that, the team are working towards recovering the lost downforce as that equals pace.
But while they are moving in the right direction, the team closing in on a first grand prix win, they still need help from Red Bull and Ferrari to put the car on the podium.
The Hungarian Grand Prix result should have been a Charles Leclerc-Max Verstappen 1-2, but instead Mercedes secured a double podium finish as Ferrari again fluffed it.
However, Lewis Hamilton, P2 on the day, and Russell, P3, were no match for Verstappen’s Red Bull which won the grand prix by 10 seconds, and did so even with a 360-degree spin in the mix.
But for a team that have shown themselves to be stronger in the grands prix than in qualifying this season, the Hungarian GP was overall a positive sign for Mercedes that maybe, just maybe, the stars will align before the year is out.
Are Mercedes really here to stay?
Mercedes have had two double podium finishes in a row. Are they fully in the fight at the front now?