Share this article

“Embarrassing for Mercedes”: Toto Wolff’s Favoritism for Lewis Hamilton Over George Russell Lands Him in Hot Waters

Published 09/24/2023, 9:40 AM EDT

Follow Us

via Imago

Imagine this. You’re a Formula 1 team principal, and you’ve taken the week off to undergo knee surgery. You’ve left people in charge who you know are more than capable of holding the fort down. Turns out, what’s threatening your team isn’t an external force. Instead, it’s your own drivers fighting against each other when so much hangs on the line. With an impending implosion in sight, you have no option but to step in and make things right. This is precisely what happened with Toto Wolff and his two more-than-competent drivers—Lewis Hamilton and George Russell—at the Japanese GP.

America’s Favorite Video Today

A few weeks ago, Mercedes was practically under no threat of losing its stronghold on P2 in the championship. Since the summer break, Ferrari has picked up its performance and made a huge dent in Mercedes’ lead. As much as Ferrari is proving a problem, the rivalry between Mercedes’ drivers could be a bigger one. When Russell joined Hamilton at Mercedes last season, everyone expected sparks to fly between them. While that didn’t happen in 2022, the past two races have made up for lost time.

Fireworks erupted in the Mercedes garage at the Japanese GP


Article continues below this ad

At the Japanese GP, both Ferraris qualified ahead of the W14s. With Hamilton in P7 and Russell in P8, the teammates fought each other on track more than once—all instances came scarily close to at least one of them not finishing the race. The race should’ve been a two-stopper, and it was for everyone but George Russell. After making just one stop, Russell was in P5 toward the end of the race, with Hamilton and Carlos Sainz chasing him down. That’s when Mercedes had to intervene.

Hamilton was clearly the faster driver, considering he was on fresher tires. With Ferrari’s race pace better than the Mercedes’, the Brit was under threat from Sainz, and Russell was only putting Hamilton more at risk. When the team asked Russell to let Hamilton through, he didn’t budge. As per a tweet by @fiagirly, “Toto Wolff was the one who insisted that Russell let Hamilton through in the closing stages when the strategists were debating whether to order a reversal of the cars or agree to Russell’s request that Hamilton stay behind until the last lap.” 


Get instantly notified of the hottest F1 stories via Google! Click on Follow Us and Tap the Blue Star.

Follow Us

Even after Russell’s engineer told him to give the place to Hamilton, the young Brit suggested they do it on the last lap instead of on Lap 49. He said so to save himself from being overtaken by Sainz. Toto Wolff felt it would be bad for Hamilton and proved his favoritism toward the seven-time champion. Russell was told, “This is an instruction, George.” An instruction straight from the boss. Seeing how Hamilton was faster, Mercedes fans didn’t appreciate Russell’s antics and called him out for it on X.

After Abandoning Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes Display Favoritism Towards “Only Chance” George Russell

Lewis Hamilton & Co.’s doom is “rookie” George Russell

Last time out in Singapore, the situation was quite similar. Other than fighting for P5, Mercedes was fighting for the win. In the race’s closing stages, Hamilton was faster but, again, behind Russell. The young Brit eventually ended up in the wall, and Hamilton had to settle for P3. The thing is, many believe that had Russell let Hamilton through, the seven-time champion could’ve won the race. Last week and this week’s antics combined, Russell has landed himself in hot waters among the Mercedes fanbase.

Since Russell joined Mercedes, he’s always been alluding to the fact that he’s a team player. The Japanese GP made fans think otherwise, and they called him out for it.

Every driver cares about finishing ahead of their teammate, but fans think Russell takes it too far sometimes. It makes them wonder if he has some clause in his contract stating he has to beat Hamilton.

Mercedes’ primary objective in 2023 is to secure P2. With Russell’s crash in Singapore and his on-track battles and ignored orders at Suzuka, that place is at risk. Fans hope he realizes that he needs to drive for the team now rather than himself.

As heart-wrenching as that missed opportunity in Singapore was for him, Russell lost crucial points for Mercedes. Considering Hamilton got the better result there and in Japan, fans believe Russell needs to understand that Lewis is the No.1.

Russell’s decisions can quite literally make or break Mercedes’ opportunities. His battles against Hamilton made fans believe he’s still a rookie compared to the ever-experienced Lewis Hamilton.


Article continues below this ad

With several blows directed at Russell, one fan called out the Mercedes strategists for not making the decision themselves. Why did Toto Wolff have to step in?


Article continues below this ad

What did you think about the battle between George Russell and Lewis Hamilton at the Japanese GP?

Watch This Story: Lewis Hamilton Gets Past Flashbacks Against George Russell at the 2023 Spanish GP

Providing feedback will help us make your experience better.

The Fan's Perspective

Enjoyed Your Read? Let us know how likely you are to recommend EssentiallySports to your friends!

Least Likely

Most Likely



Written by:

Aditi Krishnan


One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
Show More>

Edited by:

Akash Pandhare