Wolff says ‘serious George’ is like a ‘finance guy’

Toto Wolff says George Russell has settled in well with Mercedes at Sakhir, and with all the calm and seriousness of a “finance guy”.

Russell was drafted in from Williams to replace seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

The Briton kicked off his Sakhir GP weekend with the Brackley squad with a clean sweep in free practice on Friday and concluded qualifying P2 just 0.026s behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.

So far, Russell has proven to be a remarkable substitute for Hamilton, and likely his most worthy successor at Mercedes in the future.

“It’s kind of interesting because they are so different characters,” Wolff noted. “Lewis obviously has been there for a long time, has so much experience, is the calm and composed guy.

“George is equally calm but he’s a lot more chatty. He’s quite serious, you would think he’s a finance guy!

“I think he settled in well considering the circumstances. The track is new for everybody and I’m happy with his performance.”

    Read also: Russell ‘gutted’ to miss out on Sakhir pole by 0.026s!

Wolff highlighted the importance of shaving the pressure off Mercedes’ protégé ahead of Saturday evening’s qualifying session, a task conducted with the help of chief strategist James Vowles.

“We had a good chat with him, with James Vowles, and it was really to take all the pressure off,” Wolff explained.

“I said to him if you end up in the first four, second row of the grid, that’s already a fantastic result.

“If a McLaren or Ferrari jumps you and you’re fifth, it’s equally great. Nothing more is expected. And I felt that he was walking off with a little more easiness.”

©Mercedes

Russell confirmed that he headed into qualifying with no burden on his shoulders.

“Everyone at Mercedes – Toto, James – said just go out, enjoy it, there’s zero expectations on you,” he said. “We’re not expecting anything from you and if you qualify first two rows, top five, top six then fine, you can still get a podium from there.”

Regarding his prospects for Sunday’s race, Russell admitted that Mercedes’ W11 was a tight fit, leading to fears of fatigue setting in over the course of the 87-lap event.

“Comfort-wise, it’s still not perfect,” he said. “I’m very bruised and sore. It’s going to be quite a long, fatiguing race tomorrow if you’re not comfortable in the car.

“I had ice on my shoulders last night to reduce some swelling, and my knees and toes. But when the car’s so fast you forget about all the pain.”

But the sum of all the processes and procedures that had to be learned was also a challenge for the young Briton.

“First practice was a mess,” he said. ” was pressing the wrong buttons, even in qualifying I pressed neutral at one point instead of something else.

“It’s difficult when you’re in such a routine – for me, down at Williams, you don’t even think about these things, it just naturally happens.

“We’ve tried to modify as many things as physically possible just to make things easier for me. It’s been a lot of work and it still takes a bit of time, it takes a couple of races just to understand that.”

“So, Toto, a few more races please and I’ll be there!”

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