In the high-speed world of Formula 1, the relationships between drivers and team principals often take on a unique character. This is especially true for the partnership between Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, and Toto Wolff at Mercedes. In this article, we delve into how Lewis Hamilton, with his renowned fame, and Toto Wolff, who joined as a ‘rookie,’ have shaped their connection within the Mercedes team.
George Russell, the rising star who joined Mercedes in 2022, and Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion who made the bold decision to switch from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, bring distinct backgrounds and achievements to the table. At the same time, Toto Wolff, now a seasoned figure in the paddock, was a relative newcomer to the world of Formula 1, despite his earlier involvement with Williams as a shareholder.
Hamilton’s World Champion status upon joining Mercedes carried significant weight and garnered him immense respect from Wolff. His proven track record and championship wins added a layer of authority to their relationship. Russell, on the other hand, began his journey with Mercedes as a junior driver, steadily progressing through the ranks. His entry into the team had a different flavor, without the championship titles that Hamilton boasted.
The intriguing contrast in the dynamics of Hamilton’s and Russell’s relationships with Wolff emerged during an unexpected moment when Russell was asked about a scar on his wrist at the Dutch Grand Prix.
In a candid conversation on Formula 1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Russell offered insights into the distinctive elements that define his connection with Wolff. Russell highlighted that perhaps Hamilton’s initial entry into Mercedes as a reigning world champion played a pivotal role in shaping the dynamic of their relationship, as compared to Russell’s entrance.
“I was talking with Toto before the break and I said ‘I want to try this and try that’ and Toto is one who does a lot of activities, but I think he sort of lets Lewis get away with it, but when it comes to me he’s like: ‘No, you’ve got to be careful of this. If you jump on that foil board, really good chance of hurting yourself or if you go skiing, there’s a really, really good chance of hurting yourself’ – and he’s totally right, but I just sort of had a bit of a mentality that I can’t wrap myself up in bubble wrap.
“I know my boundaries, I know my limits, I get my exhilaration from the race track.
“So any additional sport I would do, I would do it to my level but I’m not going to push the boundaries of whatever it is and risk an injury but, long story short, I was learning to foil board in Spain.
“On my first day I did fall off and the foil caught my wrist and sliced my wrist open a bit. So yeah, a few bruises, I did let him know but he just sent me a photo that he broke one of his bones on holiday, so I kept him posted.”
Russell’s relationship with Toto Wolff seems to have evolved into a more amicable and congenial one, much like his relationship with his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. When questioned if Wolff’s rapport with him had a parental quality, Russell shared that it was not quite the case.
As for the intensity of his bond with Wolff, Russell revealed that their conversations transcended racing topics when they spent time together. Instead, they often engaged in discussions about non-racing activities such as free diving.
“I’m not too sure to be honest.
“I think, obviously, when Lewis and Toto were acquainted, Lewis was already World Champion, he was already this megastar.
“There was perhaps really more respect [from] Toto to Lewis when he joined because Toto was completely new to Formula 1 at that time, Toto was the rookie and Lewis was the household massive name.
“Whereas with myself, Toto signed to me as a 16-year-old. They’ve always, I guess, nurtured me along my way, advised me, helped me reach my full potential and I guess, yeah, to a degree, you could be right but I think our relationship now has gone more from, I’m not going to say paternal figure, but I’d class ourselves as more friends now.
“And also with Susie [Wolff] and Carmen [Montero Mundt] my girlfriend, we’ve got a really great relationship.
“We spend a lot of time together, doing activities together, dinner together, we see them all the time. So, you know, he’s my boss, but he’s also a friend.
“[We see each other] all the time now, we live probably 200 metres away from each other. We go to the gym together, have coffee together daily.”
In conclusion, the Mercedes Formula 1 team’s journey with Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, and Toto Wolff has been a captivating saga of contrasting backgrounds and experiences, resulting in unique relationships within the team. While Hamilton’s arrival as a world champion solidified his standing, Russell’s gradual ascent has shaped his distinct bond with Wolff. These differences, however, have not hindered the development of close and friendly relationships, with Russell and Wolff sharing common interests beyond the racetrack.
“No, because we don’t really talk about racing to be honest.
“We’re learning to free dive together at the moment – we actually went with Lewis as well on our first experience into the water.
“I’m a kid from the countryside in in the UK, the water, or water sports or activities, were never a thing where I was from, and suddenly, this life has exposed me to so much, which I’m so grateful for.
“I didn’t even know what free diving was a couple of years ago, and it’s such a beautiful life down there in the water – and it’s probably the best disconnection I’ve ever had from life.
“You’re just solely focused on your breathing, on the surroundings, the sea life and it’s really beautiful.
“I just really, really enjoy it. Only two years ago, I would have never have even expected to be doing things like this.”