Robbed of a first F1 victory by a “colossal f*** up” from Mercedes, Toto Wolff is adamant Sunday’s Sakhir GP won’t be George Russell last opportunity to win a F1 grand prix.
He may yet be in the car at this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Russell made his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix, filling in for Lewis Hamilton with the reigning World Champion having tested positive for Covid-19.
The Brit qualified P2 behind Valtteri Bottas, made a flying start and was leading the grand prix by almost five seconds when Mercedes called him in for a pit stop under Safety Car conditions.
Double-stacking the drivers, it went horribly wrong for the team who put one of Bottas’ tyres on Russell’s car. As such the 22-year-old had to stop again, falling down to fifth place.
He quickly made up ground on the restart and was chasing down Sergio Perez for the win when Mercedes called him in again, this time for a puncture.
Russell recovered to finish ninth and in doing so also claimed the fastest lap point.
He, though, was gutted about losing the win “twice”.
Wolff has assured him Sunday’s race won’t be his last chance to win a grand prix.
“It’s not going to be his last attempt to win a race,” the Mercedes motorsport told Sky Sports.
“It’s just the beginning of a fairytale that didn’t work out today and I would say that a new star is born.”
Toto 💬 “It’s not going to be @GeorgeRussell63’s last attempt to win a race, this is just the beginning of a fairy-tale that didn’t work out today and I would say a new star is born.” #SakhirGP pic.twitter.com/CqZQ4O6CDE
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 6, 2020
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Russell could yet have another go at it at this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Although Hamilton is feeling better, Mercedes is waiting on his latest test before declaring who will be in the car this weekend.
“We need to see how well Lewis recovers, that’s the most important – that he’s well,” Wolff said.
“He says he’s a bit better today, feels he made a big step and if the test is negative, then it’s his car and then he will drive a brilliant race.”
But even if Sunday’s grand prix was the first and last for Russell, for this year at least, Wolff reckons the Mercedes junior has done himself proud.
“We didn’t want to set expectations high and he overdelivered, overdelivered, overdelivered,” he said.
“He overdelivered on Friday. He overdelivered in qualifying just a few hundredths away from Valtteri.
“And he overdelivered in the race. His racing was unbelievable.
“He got off the starting line with the best reaction time in a car that is too small, with paddles that didn’t fit his hands, and he got into lead and drove a brilliant race and could have won twice.
“So, this is not a sad day, this is a day where we learn as a team.
“When we are in a tough fight about the championship I wouldn’t want the radio to fail.
“And we learn that George Russell is somebody to count on in the future. He has all the potential and all the ingredients that a future star needs.
“And in that respect I’m sad for the result that he could have had in his first race for Mercedes but on the other side I’m happy about his performance.”
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