Not only will George Russell not have a say in his new Mercedes team, but it has been said Toto Wolff will be “quite clever” in his choice as he looks for someone who will give Russell a “kick”.
Wolff has unexpectedly found himself in need of a new driver for the 2025 season after Lewis Hamilton exercised his option to leave the team just one season into his latest two-year extension.
He’ll be off to Ferrari in 2025, leaving Russell to take up the reins as Mercedes’ new team leader.
‘I think he’ll be quite clever who he puts in that second seat’
That of course, will depend on who Mercedes bring in as his new team-mate.
Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz have both been linked to Hamilton’s soon-to-be-vacant seat while Red Bull have ruled out Daniel Ricciardo making the move, as too have Williams when it comes to Alex Albon.
F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto has backed Wolff to bring in the “right” driver.
“While him and Toto close, I don’t think that Toto feels the need to have George’s approval or even to keep him in that loop,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.
“I think the only person on the grid who would get that is Max Verstappen if I’m honest, and maybe Charles Leclerc, and that’s no disrespect to George.
“I think the way that Toto runs his operation is ‘I know what I’m doing, I’m managing the drivers, we’ve got this track record as a team in delivering the right decisions, bringing the right drivers’, and even bringing Bottas in when Rosberg left.
“I think he’ll back himself to make those right calls.
“And actually, it might be quite useful for Toto to bring someone in that’s really gonna give George a bit of a kick because every driver needs that kind of thing in their career to make them find that next level. We’ve seen with Lando [Norris] at McLaren, he’s really upped his game since Oscar [Piastri] got there.
“So I think that Toto might even play, not a game, but I think he’ll be quite clever who he puts in that second seat with an eye of bringing the very best out of George.”
Mercedes will ‘throw everything behind George now’
Speaking less than 24 hours after Hamilton’s shock announcement, Wolff insisted Mercedes would not freeze out the driver, at least not from a racing perspective.
“I think what I’ve always tried to do as a team principal, and all of us at Mercedes, is to be transparent and fair – and nothing’s going to change in that respect in 2024,” he told the media, including PlanetF1.com.
“We owe it to our principles and our racing intent, how we go about [racing], and we will respect that.
“In terms of the development going forward, I think this is something which we need to look at.”
Barretto, however, believes the tide is already turning in Russell’s favour and it could make for a spicy final season for Hamilton.
“I can’t wait for it because we’ve already seen some flashpoints haven’t we, where they’ve got a bit too close for comfort out on track and Mercedes have had to be as fair as they can be because they want to protect both their drivers in very different spots in their career,” he said.
“They do not have to do that now. And there’s already been a tonal shift, I think, given that Lewis has decided to leave.
“So I do think they are going to throw everything behind George because he is their future now.
“And I am interested to see how he’s going to take that because we want to see George under pressure and delivering and so I think it’s a real opportunity for him to show the world that he can go and lead this team into the next kind of generation and turn next cycle. I’m intrigued to see if he can do it.”