Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

Russell: Mercedes are more patient with rookie drivers than Red Bull

2019 F1 season

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George Russell believes Mercedes are more patient with their junior drivers than Red Bull are with theirs.

Speaking on Saturday evening at the Chinese Grand Prix following Red Bull junior Alexander Albon’s heavy crash in practice, Russell said he understood the pressure his fellow rookie is under.

“Alex is doing a really great job at the moment,” said Russell in response to a question for RaceFans. “Everybody is aware of the pressure seen upon Red Bull juniors so you understand why they’re all at 120% every single time they set foot in the car.”

Red Bull’s young driver programme is “a bit more cutthroat compared to usual”, Russell believes. He said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff reassured him after his difficult starts in F2 and GP3.

“It’s not that I don’t feel pressure,” he said. “At the end of the day if I’m not performing Mercedes aren’t just going to keep me there.

George Russell, Williams, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019
Russell ‘expected a bollocking’ from Wolff
“But when I opened the season in Bahrain last year in F2 and it was a poor weekend, and when I opened the season in GP3 in Barcelona it was a poor weekend, the response from Toto was ‘don’t worry about it, it’s your first race, it’s a long season and make sure you do better next time’.

“I was expecting a bollocking when I walked into his office so like I say I can’t speak for them, how it is, but obviously the perception, just looking at the history of how they do things.”

“I feel the same amount of pressure entering a qualifying session as I did in F2 or GP3,” he added. “You want to do your best, you want to get the most out of it. I know I’ve just got to do the job.

“There’s no need to add additional pressure to try and impress anybody more than you’re doing. My goal is to get the most out of it and if I do it then they’ll be happy.”

Alexander Albon, Epic Racing, Moscow Raceway, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, 2012
Albon was dropped from Red Bull’s youth scheme in 2012…
Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019
…and scored points in his last two races for Toro Rosso

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Russell: Mercedes are more patient with rookie drivers than Red Bull”

  1. Counterpoint: Esteban Ocon

    1. He still is on Mercedes payroll and he will be placed in a seat as soon as one becomes available. If anything unlike RBR treating their drivers like use and throw utility(Just check the list of drivers from STR team kicked out) Mercedes is really patient with their drivers and has offered racing seats beyond F1.

      1. Sure, FE and standing in the garage is all those drivers aim for……..
        Let me get one thing straight: Red Bull is pretty ruthless with their drivers, no denying that, but Mercedes is pretty useless for their drivers.

      2. If anything unlike RBR treating their drivers like use and throw utility Mercedes is really patient with their drivers

        Pascal disagrees.

        1. Pascal left by mutual agreement because all the teams he prospected for a seat told him ‘no’ because of his Mercedes links. He also shot himself in the foot for the FI/RP seat when it was available to him by virtue of his attitude – the team didn’t want him.

      3. Being on the payroll… and “placed in a seat as soon as one becomes available”… mean nothing in reality. What position do you hold at Mercedes…? lol.

    2. @stopitrawr In what way? Toto has already said he is looking for a drive for Ocon in 2020 and if Bottas doesn’t perform it could be in the second Merc.

      1. Drivers that made to Redbull team;
        Sebastian
        Max
        Riccardo
        Daniel
        Gasly

        Drivers that made it to Mercs team;

        1. That’s probably the best way to look at it.
          (Daniel = Daniil)

        2. Good point. Enough said.

          1. Hlg8888, I would say that it’s a bit of a misleading and rather superficial assessment of the situation, because it completely ignores the context in which those programmes have been operating.

            In the case of Red Bull, you are looking at a junior team that is nearing 20 years of operation and has gone through around 80 drivers to date (if you include current members as well). By comparison, Mercedes’s junior team was only formally instituted in 2015 and currently has just four drivers on it, of which two have only just started their career.

            In total, Red Bull have had seven drivers rise through the ranks. Asides from those listed above, Klein and Liuzzi shared a seat between them, but Liuzzi got a grand total of four races for Red Bull in 2005 before being dumped into Toro Rosso, and then being dropped altogether in 2007, whilst Klein was fired by Red Bull partway through the 2006 season after he refused their attempts to dump him out of F1 and into a ChampCar so they could make room for Webber.

            Red Bull might have had more drivers make it into the parent team, but when you consider that their programme has run for nearly five times the length of Mercedes’s programme and gone through fifteen times more drivers than Mercedes have, their actual success rate at promoting drivers from the junior ranks up into the parent team is less than 10%.

        3. To be honest Bottas was kind of a Mercedes Jr.

        4. Let’s look at this more realistically. Since Mercedes started a team in 10’ they have had a grand total of 2 drivers leave , both of whom retired rather than leaving the team for another. Red Bull have had a stack of drivers come and go in comparison over a bit longer of a time span . . If DR had not left the team I think everyone knows Gasly absolutely would not have taken his seat . It’s not even something that makes since to compare. Nobody leaves Mercedes to go drive for another team. So you think Merc should sac Hamilton? Or Bottas? I’m thinking that the Red Bull team might not have given Bottas a 3rd season considering he finished so low in the standing and was often quite a way behind Hamilton in Race trim. Mercedes is obviously giving him another shot which does fit the narrative that Russel put out there.

    3. Not sure you understand what “counterpoint” means, nothing about Ocon contradicts what Russell said.

  2. Max didn’t seem to have an issue with that

    1. That’s because he speaks with Toto on the phone everyday and he then speaks to Red Bull on Max’s behalf to smooth things over.

  3. With the difference being that Red Bull actually has racing seats to offer their youngsters and not just some dream that some day they might drive something…
    And if wasn’t up to Russel himself, he would have never been giving a drive at williams by mercedes.

    I was under the impression they were less cutthroat, because they just care less about their youngsters. They cant give them the seats, and their youngsters don’t appear to be of top quality (maybe Russell will be an exception).

  4. Reading is fundamental.

  5. What a breath of fresh air Alex Albon is, we actually have a happy, smiling (always smiling) driver in F1.
    Shame all the other miserable s*ds can’t have his attitude or is that they are all such serious pro’s now? PFFT.
    Not a bad result either, good for him.

  6. GtisBetter (@)
    18th April 2019, 16:04

    RB used to have a larger group of talent and then it certainly was true, but they have reduced that group and have been more patient. Gasly is a good example and albon too. Both haven’t really been dominanting the junior series, but have been giving a change to grow.

    Of course if RB finds a great talent he/she will be promoted to the top as soon as possible. Mercedes is always in a fight for the championchip, so they can’t just throw a rookie in the car and risk losing the constructors and that is why they are generally more patient.

  7. Merc will be very patient with Russell. In about 15 years he can drive for them.

  8. Tell that to Wherlein, Ocon, and many others.

    They are patient yes, they just get kicked to the curb in a more polite way.

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