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today is Sep 25, 2022

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the team will carefully prepare George Russell for his integration into the team alongside Lewis Hamilton last year.

Wolff said the team is aware of the need to avoid disruption when it makes its first driver line-up change for five years next season.

Hamilton had a problematic relationship with his Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team mate until 2016. He was also embroiled in a rivalry with Fernando Alonso during his first season at McLaren, which arguably cost both the chance to become world champion in 2007.

Wolff said Mercedes will ensure Russell is “properly adjusted into the Mercedes situation” when he joins the team next year.

“He has an unbelievable team mate with the biggest records and there it’s important that you condition him in the right way and you calibrate him in the right way,” Wolff told Sky. “We’ve seen situations in the past where that failed. Lewis was part of one where I think the team didn’t understand how it could potentially go.

“I think we are maybe a little bit better prepared for that situation. But nevertheless he has all the ambition to be a future world champion and so does Lewis to add another one, so it’s about calibration.”

The team is aware of the need to avoid a repeat of the fall-out between Hamilton and Rosberg, who tok each other out while disputing the lead of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

“You have to respect also the other guy’s perspective and ambition,” said Wolff. “We’re not going to put a driver in the car who’s not going to have the ambition to do as good as possible to kick his team mate as hard as he can, win races and championships early.

“That’s clear, so I can put myself into his perspective so I’m trying to discuss with [Russell] what that means for the team dynamic, what it could mean, how we need to keep the momentum in the team and he’s very intelligent, he gets that.”

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Valtteri Bottas will leave the team at the end of the season to make room for Russell. Wolff stressed he had not been “fired” by the team. “We are not firing anybody, we are never firing people. We find future arrangements that are of benefit for everyone.”

Wolff wanted to ensure Bottas’ deal to join Alfa Romeo was in place before announcing his departure.

“The timeline is that you need to be correct and diligent. It was important to understand what Valtteri would be doing in the future before jumping too quick to our own situation. Once the direction was clear we got in touch with George, we had a chat, we exchanged draft contracts and that is exactly the timing George has described.”

Russell’s appointment was a group decision within the team which also involved the input of Daimler board members Ola Kallenius and Markus Schäfer, Wolff explained.

“The decision about drivers is in the group. Obviously all engineers have a say, the senior engineers in the team, hugely valuable information also because they do the data and the stats. And then the Daimler board, Ola and Markus, I’m always keen in hearing their opinion, they see it with a little bit of a step back.

“Then we come together and I say ‘okay what are we doing’ and this year that was the decision we took.”

Wolff said the team expects Russell to be in contention for race wins and even the championship if their 2022 car is competitive enough.

“I think we would be satisfied if he would be in the top three in terms of the car package, competing for victories. That’s always our ambition that we are right there, over the long-term this is the winning recipe.

“If we have a car that we can develop that we can actually go for the championship then absolutely. He has the same car that Lewis has, he has the pace, in qualifying he’s very fast and I’m sure it’s going to be fine.”

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