Damon Hill slams Mercedes boss for not backing George Russell

Damon Hill criticizes Mercedes boss for not backing George Russell

Damon Hill has told Mercedes to back George Russell amid the ongoing debate over his errors following the Canadian Grand Prix.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has fallen under criticism from former F1 champion Damon Hill for undermining George Russell as he feels that the Silver Arrows should treat the British driver better and give him more support.

Russell led the Brackley outfit to their best weekend of 2024 F1 so far in Canada after starting from pole position and finishing third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

His teammate Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after starting down in seventh place. However, Mercedes had a chance to win the race. Since the dramatic change in regulations two years ago, the car’s inferior speed has held Russell and Hamilton down, but this time it was the drivers who fell short, as both made errors during the race.

Russell’s hopes of winning were completely dashed after he made a costly error during the final laps of the race while chasing Verstappen allowing Norris to overtake him. After that blunder, team boss Toto Wolff came on to the radio and told his driver to “focus.”

After the race, Russell acknowledged making a “couple of mistakes,” saying it felt like a missed opportunity as Wolff brushed down the impact of his actions, stating that he sometimes gives his drivers a little bit of ‘advice maybe that can be helpful.’

However, 1996 world champion and Sky Sports pundit Damon Hill is concerned whether that may have the reverse effect on a driver who wants to become the team’s leading driver.

“Nobody’s perfect are they?” Hill told Sky F1’s post-Canada podcast. “You get to the sharp end, you get the focus, everyone’s watching everything you do and criticizing everything much more viciously, or at least being observant of any failure at all.

“I think it can be slightly undermining if you’re getting coached by your team boss over the radio during race, being told to focus.

“I think he knows what he’s doing, to quote a famous racing driver. But I do think that this is a problem for George because he’s been there at Mercedes, they haven’t had a great run, but he is definitely doing the job for them.

“Lewis is off to Ferrari next year, and he is trying to establish himself as the lead driver. And he’s yet to achieve that, I think because they’re talking all the time about who’s going to be his team-mate for next year rather than talking up George.”

Hill believes Mercedes and Toto Wolff can do more by giving the British driver more support.

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“I think Mercedes ought to back him a bit harder,” he added. “They ought to give him a bit more confidence and then he doesn’t perhaps have to try so hard to prove himself in the race because it seems to me he’s trying to compensate a little bit for stuff.

“I think he needs to cool it. He’s got the speed, he’s got the abilities, he’s very intelligent. I’m sure he can deliver for them if they give him a bit more comfort there.”

Former W Series racer Naomi Schiff also weighed in as the Sky Sports analysts discussed whether Mercedes’ open pursuit of Verstappen had impacted Russell negatively.

“While I agree with those sentiments, we are talking about Formula 1. And at the end of the day, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and the teams are going to be out there looking for the best possible driver,” she said.

“And if they have the hint right now that Max Verstappen is available or could be available at some point, then they would be silly to not attempt to get him on board. And I think George will understand that whilst it may be frustrating.

“That might be why he’s pushing so hard in this moment, as Damon said. He’s thinking, ‘What can I do to prove to them that I’m enough, we’ve got one moment here to potentially have a victory which we haven’t had the chance to have in many, many months. Could this be the one thing that I could do to calm them down and turn their heads away?’

“And every single performance on track at the moment is an audition for the drivers who are trying to prove themselves in whatever way they are trying to prove themselves, whether that’s securing a contract or making sure they’re seen as the number one driver.

“Every single last drive is what people remember. So I can understand why George is putting himself under some pressure.

“But yes, when Toto came on the radio, I thought to myself, ‘gosh’. I remember when my team bosses used to come on the radio would put the fear of God in me and I would think to myself, ‘What have I done that needs them to come on to the radio?’ So I don’t know if that’s helpful.

“Maybe he did need that calming voice. Maybe he did need someone to tell him ‘Look, just recentre, refocus, and you’ve got this but just stay focused’.”

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