George Russell Reveals an Incident When Toto Wolff Almost Closed the Mercedes F1 Door on Him

Published 01/15/2022, 9:36 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary – July 29, 2021 Williams’ George Russell during a press conference ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix Pool via REUTERS/Florion Goga


British driver George Russell joined the Mercedes team ahead of the 2022 F1 season. Though relatively young, Russell is one of the most lethal forces on the F1 grid when he takes the wheel. After winning the 2018 GP2 championship, the 23-year-old made his first F1 appearance in the 2019 Australian Grand Prix for the Williams team.

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Now, after three seasons with the team, Russell has left Williams to join reigning champions, Mercedes. He was also a part of the Mercedes Junior Program before stepping in F1.

However, his road to the top team wasn’t a smooth one.

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FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium – September 1, 2019 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Williams’ George Russell before the race REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File Photo

The Silver Arrows team approached Russell on two occasions during his F3 days. While he rejected the initial offer, he grabbed on to the second one which changed the course of his racing career.

Notably, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff warned him of the choice he made initially but Russell was adamant about it.

Wolff told George Russell that he was making a wrong decision

Russel rose through the ranks in his junior career and was in high demand by the big teams immediately. In 2015, Mercedes offered him a seat in the F3 team called Mücke Motorsport. However, Russell politely declined the offer and went with the Volkswagen-backed Carlin team. He finished 6th that season behind current stars Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll.

“I actually had a deal on the table to have almost the same backing from Mercedes as I had from Volkswagen. But because there wasn’t an opportunity open at PREMA, the next team I would have had to join would be a German team called Mücke Motorsport who I felt for my first season F3 wouldn’t be as well suited to me as a British team in Carlin,” said Russell, as reported by Motorsport Magazine

To this, Wolff replied, I think you’re making a wrong decision but let’s stay in touch, and let’s see where we go from there.”

Formula One F1 – Young Driver Test – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 14, 2021 Mercedes’ George Russell during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

A second chance with the Silver Arrows for Russell

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However, later that year, Mercedes and BMW both offered him another deal. While a cash-rich deal from BMW would have landed him in DTM, which he considered the next big thing after F1, he decided to go with Mercedes instead. But it wasn’t a straightforward choice for the 17-year-old.

“Suddenly Mercedes pick up the phone but they weren’t offering anything concrete it was ‘you’ve got to take a chance.’”

“They might turn around and say I’m sorry. But then the BMW door is closed as well. But the big difference is this is Mercedes, and that was Formula 1 and BMW was DTM. I was a 17-year-old, and you had to take that risk. I guess if it didn’t work out I’d potentially be regretting it, but it worked out,” added the Mercedes driver.

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Now he has taken the wheel of the Mercedes W-13 and there is no looking back for the young Brit. Fans are excited to see the duo of Russell and Hamilton charging on the grid in 2022. What are your predictions for Russell in 2022?

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Rituraj Tripathi

244 articles

Rituraj Tripathi is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. A true lover of speed, he is big fan of Lewis Hamilton and finds a future world champion in Lando Norris. Rituraj eagerly looks forward to the paddock moving to the Circuit de Monaco, and he finds Portier corner as the most exciting part of the track.

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