Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says it is crucial for George Russell to cut errors out of his driving if he wants to graduate to the team.
There was no doubting Russell’s potential when he arrived in Formula 1 in 2019 – the two prior seasons had seen him win the GP3 and F2 titles back-to-back, a year after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had pulled off that achievement.
Sadly at Williams Russell has not had the best platform to show off his abilities with both their 2019 and 2020 challengers struggling to get close to the points-paying positions.
That being said, when Russell did have a clear shot at scoring his first points in Formula 1 at the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, he put his FW43 in the wall behind the Safety Car.
Later in the season Russell did though get a golden opportunity with parent team Mercedes who drafted him in for the Sakhir Grand Prix after Sir Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19.
Russell’s debut weekend was certainly a success as he qualified P2 on the grid, before taking the lead from team-mate Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1.
If it was not for a botched pit stop and later a slow puncture, then Russell was well in contention to win on his Mercedes debut.
That performance certainly put Russell on Mercedes’ radar for a 2022 drive, but if he is to truly prove himself to Wolff, then cutting out costly mistakes like Imola will be crucial.
“Winning Formula 1 championships is about making the least amount of mistakes. And that only comes with routine and experience,” Wolff told Motorsport.com.
“Mercedes expects these kind of sustainable performance levels. And that’s why you need to give young drivers time.
“Because as exuberant as they may be perceived after the performance that we’ve seen [at the Sakhir GP] from George, at the same time, young drivers will be criticised, and criticised quickly, when they make mistakes in such a high pressure environment like a top team.
“That’s why making experiences like in Imola, and the learnings from that, are very important to form a driver that can perform at a sustainable high level.”
Sundays are for driving. 😍 One lap. Any track, past or present. Where in the 🌍 you heading? 👇 pic.twitter.com/we5z9r5Ael
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) January 17, 2021
Wolff in no way though was playing down Russell’s ability, saying his outing in Sakhir simply confirmed the talent which Mercedes felt he possessed.
“We believed in George because there’s not many drivers out there that have won junior championships as rookies, especially not the very competitive GP3 and F2 championships,” Wolff continued.
“For us, [using him as replacement for Hamilton] was a possibility to confirm what we were thinking about George. It was unfortunate that this opportunity came with Lewis having been out.
“I would have wished it would have happened in a different way, but it gave us a set of data points to look at. And in a way it affirmed how we judged him.
“It was also an advantage for him and Williams. He was going to go back to his team with a lot of learning, with more understanding. And this is why I think for him personally and for Williams, it was advantageous.”