Toto Wolff has explained that he spoke to George Russell via team radio in an attempt to calm him down after a late collision with Sergio Perez at the French Grand Prix on Sunday. The two drivers tangled with only a few laps remaining at Circuit Paul Ricard as Russell clipped Perez’s rear wheel while trying a daring move up the inside of his Red Bull rival.
The Mercedes man was furious in the immediate aftermath of the incident as he called for Perez to be punished for supposedly turning in on him into the corner. Wolff quickly stepped in to correct his driver’s focus over the radio, though, which may have helped Russell to eventually secure a third-placed finish by overtaking Perez with just a few laps remaining.
“I think as a driver you’re getting so upset with the situation, you feel that what has happened was just not right,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 when quizzed on his mid-race chat with Russell.
“I think sometimes you don’t see the helicopter view. I felt he had pace at the time and could catch him on track, so I wanted to reset him mentally.”
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Wolff’s decision to intervene ultimately proved to be the right call, with Russell going on to force his way around Perez during the final stages of the race before surviving a late push from the Mexican driver to clinch a spot on the podium. The 24-year-old was joined in the post-race celebrations by Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen after the latter cruised to victory following Charles Leclerc’s unfortunate crash just before the halfway point.
“We need to stay humble,” added Wolff in response to both Mercedes drivers finishing in the top three for the first time this year.
“Our car is just not good at the moment to fight with the guys in front. I’m always a little bit pessimistic because I need to be, we’re just lacking six or seven tenths to the leaders.
“Whilst we have stabilised in the race and Verstappen hadn’t been gaining more ground, he was also looking after his tyres.
“Overall the team effort was great, the drivers did a really good job. George was clever and fast, Lewis the lion who was just always there. We’re doing the maximum at the moment on race day.”
Mercedes will have been left encouraged by their strong on-track showing at the French Grand Prix, with the Silver Arrows seemingly making progress in their efforts to close the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari. However, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to join the battle for race victories alongside Red Bull and Ferrari between now and the end of the season.
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