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George Russell

Russell 'almost crashed' after 'dumbest' Wolff radio call

George Russell has shared how an excited late-race team radio message from Toto Wolff almost made him crash, which would have robbed him and Mercedes of its first victory since late 2022.

Russell Austria
To news overview © XPBimages

George Russell has described a late-race scare en route to victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, after leaders Max Verstappen and Lando Norris came to blows.

The Mercedes driver was running in third, some 12 or 13 seconds back from the Red Bull and McLaren ahead when suddenly team boss Toto Wolff was shouting in his ear.

The 26-year-old had only just been told of Verstappen's puncture when the Austrian came on team radio.

"George, you can win this. You can win this, George!" the 52-year-old excitedly told Russell, which he has since called the "single dumbest thing" he has done during his tenure as Mercedes team principal, adding he will be "forever ashamed" of the moment.

"Let me fucking drive!" Russell exclaimed over team radio in response. Thankfully for the British driver and his team, it did not lead to a mistake, despite the shock of Wolff's reaction. It was the German marque's first triumph since the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

"Suddenly I had Toto screaming in my ear, ‘you can win this’," Russell told media including RacingNews365, before revealing it almost caused him to have an accident.

"I almost crashed when he screamed into my ears. It was that loud. But I think it just goes to show the passion that we all share. And it's obviously been a tough couple of years for us. It feels great to be back on the top step."

Offset tyre strategy did not help Russell 'at all'

The now two-time grand prix winner held off Oscar Piastri in the closing stages, who worked his way up from seventh on the grid to challenge Russell.

Mercedes opted to offset Russell and his team-mate on tyre strategy, with Lewis Hamilton taking the conventional medium-hard-medium approach. This left Russell to run consecutive stints on the yellow-walled Pirellis before ending the race on hard tyres.

However, the virtual safety car period provided the British driver with the opportunity to make the alternative strategy work in his favour.

I don't think it helped at all, to be honest," he admitted. "It's difficult. We split the strategies with Lewis [Hamilton] just to try something. 

"You never know how the race is going to pan out, and VSC, safety cars have a big factor. That VSC at the end was quite handy for me. It allowed me to cool my tyres down and then my pace against Oscar [Piastri]. The last five laps was the same when he had the mediums."

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