Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has backed Lewis Hamilton to still win a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 world title - and predicts George Russell will claim one as well. Hamilton was set to break Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles in 2021, but a last lap Safety Car restart in Abu Dhabi allowed Max Verstappen to snatch the title after race director Michael Masi restarted the race. Mercedes' predicted 2022 challenge did not materialise after they misjudged the new technical rules as Verstappen romped to a second crown. Despite the setbacks, Wolff believes Hamilton still can win another title - and believes Russell is well set to become the 11th British World Champion.
Wolff on title wins
Russell was promoted to Mercedes for 2022, having spent three years at Williams - although he did stand-in for Hamilton at the '20 Sakhir Grand Prix as the elder Briton tested positive for COVID - coming close to a win before finishing ninth. That performance, and his latter ones has convinced Wolff of Russell's ability to fight for titles. "George is a great personality, he was obviously hoping to be in a Mercedes and win races and championships," Wolff told Channel 4. "He got the timing wrong, but at least he has progressed to the midfield now! "So that time is going to come, he will win races, he will race for championships. He absolutely has it in him. "But maybe there's another Lewis championship in between?"
Managing the relationship
Mercedes famously had a combustible relationship in 2014-16 between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg - tempered by Valtteri Bottas's arrival in '17 after Rosberg quit. Wolff now believes that the Hamilton-Russell relationship is one of a 'mentor" and with "respect" on both sides. "They need to find the relationship on track also, because they haven't had close racing between themselves," Wolff said. "After Zandvoort [where a near miss happened between them], my feeling as that it was a bit too close, it could have gone wrong but they are the experts. "I would describe the relationship as with respect. "The respect of the rookie in the knowledge that his teammate is the greatest driver of all time - with Michael - and the respect of Lewis who sees himself [in George.] "In terms of talent, age and growing up - and in a way, as weird as it sounds because your teammate is your first enemy - Lewis mentors George and George accepts that role of a young lion. "Both of them still have the ambition to beat their teammate and win races and championships, and I think that dynamic works very well together."