Mercedes says that it will be important to “condition and calibrate” George Russell from the outset next season to help its recruit deal with the added pressure of racing alongside Lewis Hamilton.
The Brackley squad has enjoyed five years of harmony thanks to the good vibes that have governed the relationship between Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas.
From its inception, the balanced and peaceful rapport between the two drivers was in stark contrast to the fierce and contentious relationship endured by Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and which gave Wolff a few big headaches.
There is no doubting that Russell will give Hamilton a run for his money at Mercedes, and many are already predicting an intense tug-of-war between the duo.
But Wolff believes his outfit’s previous experience in dealing with an inner-team rivalry will help it prevent the duo’s relationship from descending into acrimony.
“He’s [Russell] proven that he deserves to have a seat in a top car and now we need to get him properly adjusted into the Mercedes situation,” said Wolff.
“There’s a lot more pressure, he’s having an unbelievable teammate with the biggest records and there it’s important that you condition him and you calibrate him in the right way.
“We’ve seen situations in the past where they’ve failed.
“Lewis was part of one where I think the team didn’t quite understand how it could potentially go. And I think we’re maybe a little bit better prepared for that situation but nevertheless, he has all the ambition to be a future world champion and so has Lewis, to add another one, so it’s about calibration.”
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Managing the Hamilton-Russell rapport while giving a free reign to the latter’s ambitions will be a treacherous and fine balancing act. But Wolff is determined to work with Russell to help the team and driver achieve their equilibrium.
“I think you have to respect also the other guy’s perspective, and ambition,” said Wolff.
“We are not going to put a driver in the car who is not going to have the ambition to do as good as possible to kick his team mate as hard as he can, win races and championships early too, and that’s clear.
“So I can put myself into his perspective, so I’m trying to discuss with him what that means for the team dynamic, what it could mean, how we need to keep the momentum in the team. And he’s very intelligent, he gets that.”
Looking to 2022 and to F1’s transformative first season under its new regulations, Wolff hopes first and foremost that it will get it right with its new car and uphold its position among F1’s front-runners. If that’s the case, Russell’s performance will follow.
“I think we would be satisfied if we would be in the top three in terms of the car package competing for victories,”he said.
“That’s always our ambition, that we are right there over the long term, this is the winning recipe.
“And if we have a car that we can develop, if we are able to go for the championship, then absolutely, he has the same car that has Lewis, he has the pace, in qualifying he is very, very fast, and I’m sure it’s going to be fine.”
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