Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has reiterated his stance on George Russell and Lewis Hamilton’s rivalry next season, re-enforcing the idea that not one driver is the “star” of the show in their upcoming partnership. Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas at the team as his five-year tenure comes to an end this season, after months of speculation surrounding the pair.
The much anticipated all British line-up has captivated fans and many in the paddock, however, the move has come with a stark warning to both drivers, with Wolff keen to put a stop to any nasty rivalries repeating itself.
Bottas joined the team at the start of 2017 with the Mercedes camp somewhat rocky after the Hamilton and Nico Rosberg inter-team battles.
Hamilton and Rosberg had a fiery four years alongside each other at the British-based German team in one of the most intense rivalries of recent times.
Yet, after beating Hamilton to the title at the fourth time of asking at the end of the 2016 season in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg almost immediately quit F1 altogether.
Now, in a new change of direction for Mercedes, Russell, who is 13 years the junior of Hamilton, will race alongside the seven-time world champion in the biggest challenge of his career so far, and Wolff was keen to set the boundaries early doors.
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When asked by Speedweek what his expectations of Russell were, Wolff said: “That it fits in well with the Mercedes system.
“That means learning. It doesn’t matter whether he is slower or faster than Lewis or on the same level. He has to be a team player.
“With us, the team is the star, not a single member.”
It’s the second time in the past week Wolff has sent this warning to the incoming driver, as the Austrian admitted to The Daily Mail that no driver, not even Hamilton, is bigger than the team.
In the past, Wolff has taken the blame himself for how the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg panned out, putting it down to inexperience for how it manifested.
But with the arrival of Russell from Williams, Wolff felt confident harmony could remain between the pair.
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“And George Russell is another intelligent young man,” said Wolff to The Daily Mail. “He will slot into the team but that doesn’t mean he has to hold back when driving. You can’t expect a lion in the car and a puppy out of it.
“But there are certain boundaries within the team that must be respected and George knows them very well. Once the lights are green, only the drivers are responsible.
“I can’t interfere, manage or remote control them, but one thing is of ultimate importance — don’t touch. That’s your responsibility. You can race hard, but no contact.