Shortly before the blockbuster news that Lewis Hamilton was moving to Ferrari in 2025, Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff was adamant in an interview that 25-year-old Englishman George Russell is the future of the German team.
Two weeks after that interview published in The Telegraph a couple of weeks before the Ferrari-Hamilton news Wolff said: “George is our future, and when I look at all the young men, of the current Formula 1 drivers, he’s the one I would want to have in a car.”
Which has always been the plan. First, they placed Russell at Williams before promoting him in place of Valtteri Bottas from 2022. That year Hamilton’s younger teammate beat him in the WDC and winning the only race Mercedes won that year. Lewis zero.
Last year was grim for Mercedes, but they still did enough to finish second in the 2023 F1 WCC, with Hamilton third in the WDC, best of the rest but behind the dominant Red Bull duo World Champion Max Verstappen and runner-up Sergio Perez.
If Wolff sticks to his word Russell is the Mercedes number one diver as of now
Russell was only good for eighth in the final standings last year as he seemed to struggle to find his place in the team. As if damned when he beat Hamilton, damned when he didn’t. And it also got nasty when the pair had some hairraising moments on track. Nevertheless, Toto kept the faith by adding that their protege George “absolutely met the team’s expectations”.
How true those words are will be judged soon, because the “future” Wolff talked about is actually right now in F1! In the wake of Hamilton’s departure to Ferrari, Russell – if his boss sticks to his word – should become the de facto team leader from last week, 1 February, the day Lewis to Maranello shocked the sporting world.
Throughout 2024, the attitude they may take could be one Mercedes driver, versus 2.5 Ferrari drivers with Hamilton, to don Red next year, the enemy within the garage. It’s a big year for Russell and Mercedes, and perhaps an awkward one too.
In a related report, more so than ever before Russell knows what he has to do in 2024: “When you’re on the back foot, you tend to have bad luck. I’m not one for believing in luck, I think you make your own luck, so we just need to be faster and Lady Luck will be with us.” Let’s see…
Big Question: Is Russell ready to lead Mercedes after Hamilton departs for Ferrari?