George Russell has explained how a one week delay in contacting Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff was vital in securing a place on the young driver programme.
Russell was signed up to Mercedes' scheme in 2015 and was helped through the junior F1 ranks, securing the GP3 title in 2017 and the F2 crown a year later before being promoted to Grand Prix racing with Williams.
After a three-year spell with the Grove-based squad, Wolff elected to elevate Russell to the senior Mercedes team for 2022, partnering Lewis Hamilton.
It proved to be a difficult campaign for the eight-time champions as they fumbled the new technical rules, finishing third in the standings, although Russell did take a maiden Grand Prix win – Mercedes' only victory of the season – in Brazil.
Reflecting on initially approaching Wolff back in his Formula 4 days, Russell has revealed how a difference of one week was crucial.
Russell explains Wolff contact
"I thought at the age of 16, the world would come to me," Russell explained to the High Performance Podcast.
"It was only during that year I realised that they're not looking for me and you've got to go and look for them. You've got to knock on their door.
"Toto is not going to look at British Formula 4 and see George Russell here who has won the championship by a couple of points [and say]: 'We need to sign him.'
"But if I put myself in front of him, talk to him and show him what I am made of, maybe there's an opportunity, so I was in Abu Dhabi doing a Formula 3 test and managed to get hold of his email.
"I thought: 'I've got nothing to lose, and worst case, he doesn't reply and I've lost nothing, and best case, he replies.'
"I literally just sent him an email and didn't want to go in too hard so I just said, 'I'm George and it would be great to meet you and talk about the future potentially.'"
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Russell details crucial timing of email
"I realise that the small things make a difference, and you need somebody on the receiving end to be in the right state of mind," Russell continued.
"If he's having a bad day or he's busy and I send that email one week earlier, which is the Tuesday before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he probably would have seen it and disregarded it.
"But [I sent it on] the Tuesday after Abu Dhabi, the season is over, he's relaxed and has just won the championship, so here is an opportunity.
"I sent it about 9pm and he replied within 15 minutes with his PA's copied in.
"Four weeks later, I am sat in his office, he was very nice and gave me a lot of time.
"We left the conversation saying that I'm going to race in Formula 3, and he said: 'We'll keep an eye on you.'
"It was at the end of 2015 when we picked up the conversation again – that's when I signed for Mercedes."
Russell would complete simulator duties for the team throughout 2016, before being given his first contemporary F1 test in 2017 at the Hungaroring.
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