Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff says key to George Russell’s progress is not improving his speed but in ironing out mistakes.
Russell is a contender for a 2022 race seat at Mercedes, having boosted his chances of a drive at the team off the back of a strong showing at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton.
But while some believed Russell had done enough to justify a seat with Mercedes immediately, Wolff is more cautious about things and believes another year at Williams will be important for the youngster.
In particular, Wolff thinks it is essential that Russell avoids the kind of error he made at Imola, when he crashed behind the safety car, before he faces the pressure of a front-line cockpit.
Speaking to Autosport about Russell’s progress, Wolff said: “Winning Formula 1 championships is about making the least amount of mistakes. And that only comes with routine and experience.
“Mercedes expects these kind of sustainable performance levels. And that’s why you need to give young drivers time.
“Because as exuberant as they may be perceived after the performance that we’ve seen [at the Sakhir GP] from George, at the same time, young drivers will be criticised, and criticised quickly, when they make mistakes in such a high pressure environment like a top team.
“That’s why making experiences like in Imola, and learning from that, is very important to form a driver that can perform at a sustainable high level.”
While Wolff thinks Russell has room to grow he is clear that he has complete faith in the British driver’s talent, which was confirmed in his race outing for Mercedes.
“We believed in George because there’s not many drivers out there that have won junior championships as rookies, especially not in the very competitive GP3 and F2 championships,” said Wolff.
“For us, [using him as replacement for Hamilton] was a possibility to confirm what we were thinking about George. It was unfortunate that this opportunity came with Lewis having been out.
“I would have wished it would have happened in a different way, but it gave us a set of data points to look at. And in a way it affirmed how we judged him.
“It was also an advantage for him and Williams. He was going to go back to his team with a lot of learning, with more understanding. And this is why I think for him personally and for Williams, it was advantageous.”