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Russell “almost crashed” with Wolff’s F1 Austrian GP radio call to arms


Austrian Grand Prix winner George Russell reckoned he “almost crashed” when Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told him he could win over his team radio, en route to securing his second Formula 1 victory.

Russell capitalised on the raging lead battle between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, which boiled over with seven laps remaining in dramatic fashion as the two made contact at Turn 3, handing punctures to both drivers.

The Mercedes driver caught the slowing duo through Turn 8 to take the lead, and maintained enough of a gap over Oscar Piastri to ensure he could pick up the pieces and claim the win.

When it became apparent that Russell could collect the lead, Wolff shot over the radio to tell Russell “you can win this”, which Russell curtly replied to his team principal to “let him drive”. The Briton suggested that Wolff’s message had not come at a particularly helpful time. 

Reflecting on his race, Russell added that the car had felt “strange” on the way to the grid, but pre-race checks had indicated that all was well.

“The pace felt strong. The problem I had, Lewis [Hamilton] attacked me early in the race,” Russell recounted. “But then once I got back past him, I got a bit of a gap to Carlos [Sainz]. I knew Oscar [Piastri] was going to be quick and he sort of came a little bit out of nowhere towards the end of the race.

“On those hard tyres for me was pretty difficult. And then suddenly I had Toto screaming in my ear, “you can win this!” 

“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.

“It’s obviously been a tough couple of years for us, so it feels great to be back on the top step.”

Wolff accepted that his radio message was mistimed, admitting that he hadn’t checked where Russell was on the circuit before delivering his call-to-arms message.

“That was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, I have to say. I didn’t look where he was at all,” Wolff admitted to Sky Germany.

“I just saw the two of them crash into each other. It’s the first time that’s happened to me in twelve years. He’s fully on the brakes at 320 km/h and I tell him that the two of them have collided. I have to think about it first.”

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, 1st position, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, celebrate in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Three laps ahead of the crash between Verstappen and Norris, Russell revealed that his race engineer Marcus Dudley had suggested that he had a chance of winning given the intensity of the battle on track ahead.

He acknowledged that Piastri was rapidly catching him, and reckoned the arrival of the virtual safety car to clear up debris ensured he could cool his tyres ahead of the final laps.

“I was just trying to focus on just maximising my driving, to be honest. My engineer said three laps before ‘they’re fighting really hard and we can win this’, and I said ‘look we need to secure P3 first, let me drive.'”

“I knew Oscar was fast behind and then, when we got into the lead, I knew it was going to be a challenging last six laps.

“My tyres were difficult; that virtual safety car helped marginally because my tyres were overheating and that just allowed me to cool them down.”

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