Toto Wolff has outlined clear favourite between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell

In George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes have one of the most talented driver line-ups on the grid, but there are some wrinkles to iron out.

Toto Wolff has made it clear that Lewis Hamilton is Mercedes’ number one driver, claiming that the 39-year-old can return to World Championship contention in 2024. George Russell, meanwhile, was singled out as the team’s ‘future’ after a difficult sophomore year with the Brackley-based team.

When Russell joined the team ahead of the 2022 season, it was expected that he would learn under Hamilton’s wing for a couple of years before taking over as the team leader when the time came for Hamilton to retire. After an immense first season at Mercedes, the changing of the guard looked to have been accelerated.

However, 2023 was a major setback for Russell’s hopes of establishing himself as Hamilton’s equal at Mercedes. The 25-year-old finished on the podium on just two occasions, ending the campaign in eighth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings, 59 points behind his team-mate in third.

Hamilton, meanwhile, turned in consistently impressive performances as he spearheaded Mercedes’ bid to pip Ferrari to second place in the Constructors’ Championship standings. The 39-year-old is still holding out hope that he can secure a record-breaking eighth world title, although his hopes require the Silver Arrows to make a giant leap in performance.

Speaking to The Telegraph about Russell’s role after his second season as a Mercedes driver, Wolff claimed that he had “absolutely met expectations,” before adding: “George is our future, and you know, when I look at all the young men, of the current Formula One drivers, he’s the one I would want to have in a car.”

While Wolff was positive about his decision to invest so much time and financial resources into Russell’s development, it is clear that Hamilton remains the most likely to take the World Championship fight to Verstappen and Red Bull.

Asked whether or not he still has the capability to fight at the very top of F1, Wolff replied: “The answer is clearly yes in capital letters. There is a reason Lewis is a seven-time world champion and has broken all the records.

“His ability is on a different level. If we are able to give him a car that he actually feels, that drives in a way that he can trust, he will be on the level that’s needed to win the championship. 39 is no age.”

 

Gideon Canice

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