George Russell on why Toto Wolff had ‘more respect’ for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff and George Russell sit on a Mercedes bonnet.

Toto Wolff flanked by Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

George Russell explained that Lewis Hamilton arriving at Mercedes as an established “megastar”, with Toto Wolff being a “rookie” at that point, led to there perhaps being “more respect” between the two of them than there was between Wolff and himself, in terms of their dynamic.

Russell signed with Mercedes in 2022 having moved through the ranks as a Mercedes junior driver, while Hamilton joined the team in 2013 as a World Champion after making what was then a bold decision in leaving McLaren.

Wolff too had just moved to Mercedes as executive director having been with Williams as a shareholder, and his success has been substantial, having joined the team at the same time as Hamilton, who has gone on to win six of his seven titles as a Mercedes driver, and the team taking eight Constructors’ crowns in a row.

George Russell: Lewis Hamilton ‘already a megastar’ when joining Mercedes

The question of how Hamilton and Russell’s dynamic with Wolff differs came about after Russell was asked about why he turned up with a scar on his wrist at the Dutch Grand Prix, with his response to it inspiring a follow-up.

“I was talking with Toto before the break and I said ‘I want to try this and try that’ and Toto is one who does a lot of activities, but I think he sort of lets Lewis get away with it, but when it comes to me he’s like: ‘No, you’ve got to be careful of this. If you jump on that foil board, really good chance of hurting yourself or if you go skiing, there’s a really, really good chance of hurting yourself’ – and he’s totally right, but I just sort of had a bit of a mentality that I can’t wrap myself up in bubble wrap,” Russell explained on Formula 1’sBeyond the Gridpodcast.

“I know my boundaries, I know my limits, I get my exhilaration from the race track.

“So any additional sport I would do, I would do it to my level but I’m not going to push the boundaries of whatever it is and risk an injury but, long story short, I was learning to foil board in Spain.

“On my first day I did fall off and the foil caught my wrist and sliced my wrist open a bit. So yeah, a few bruises, I did let him know but he just sent me a photo that he broke one of his bones on holiday, so I kept him posted.”

Picking up on that difference between how Wolff seemingly allows Hamilton more room to take part in his off-track activities, the younger Briton was asked by host Tom Clarkson about how the Mercedes team boss wants to advise him in such a way away from the circuit.

But instead of there just being an age gap between the two drivers, Russell explained that there was an understandably marked difference in dynamic when Hamilton arrived at Mercedes compared to his debut with the team, which may go some way to explaining why his relationship with Wolff has been different.

That being said, he believes he now enjoys the same ‘boss/friend’ dynamic Hamilton has spoken of with Wolff for a long period of time.

“I’m not too sure to be honest,” Russell responded when asked if he sees his relationship with Wolff as a paternal one.

“I think, obviously, when Lewis and Toto were acquainted, Lewis was already World Champion, he was already this megastar.

“There was perhaps really more respect [from] Toto to Lewis when he joined because Toto was completely new to Formula 1 at that time, Toto was the rookie and Lewis was the household massive name.

“Whereas with myself, Toto signed to me as a 16-year-old. They’ve always, I guess, nurtured me along my way, advised me, helped me reach my full potential and I guess, yeah, to a degree, you could be right but I think our relationship now has gone more from, I’m not going to say paternal figure, but I’d class ourselves as more friends now.

“And also with Susie [Wolff] and Carmen [Montero Mundt] my girlfriend, we’ve got a really great relationship.

“We spend a lot of time together, doing activities together, dinner together, we see them all the time. So, you know, he’s my boss, but he’s also a friend.

“[We see each other] all the time now, we live probably 200 metres away from each other. We go to the gym together, have coffee together daily.”


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When it was put to him that his and Wolff’s relationship sounded somewhat intense, given their proximity, Russell responded: “No, because we don’t really talk about racing to be honest.

“We’re learning to free dive together at the moment – we actually went with Lewis as well on our first experience into the water.

“I’m a kid from the countryside in in the UK, the water, or water sports or activities, were never a thing where I was from, and suddenly, this life has exposed me to so much, which I’m so grateful for.

“I didn’t even know what free diving was a couple of years ago, and it’s such a beautiful life down there in the water – and it’s probably the best disconnection I’ve ever had from life.

“You’re just solely focused on your breathing, on the surroundings, the sea life and it’s really beautiful.

“I just really, really enjoy it. Only two years ago, I would have never have even expected to be doing things like this.”

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