(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Paul Ricard, 2022

Wolff explains radio messages to calm “upset” Russell after Perez clash

2022 French Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he spoke to George Russell on the radio during the French Grand Prix to urge his driver to drop his complaints over an incident with Sergio Perez at the Mistral chicane.

Russell complained vociferously that Perez had left the track at turn eight after the Mercedes driver tried to pass him at the inside of the corner.

“Emotions were high then, obviously for all of us, because I felt like I did a mega-move on Checo and ultimately didn’t get to keep the position and we definitely had a bit more pace there,” Russell explained when asked by RaceFans.

Wolff told Russell to “keep your head down” during the exchange after the team indicated to him they did not believe Perez would be required to give up the position. The driver said he appreciated the messages from Wolff, who tends not to speak directly to his drivers during races.

“I quite enjoyed hearing Toto on the radio,” said Russell. “We’re in this together as a team.

“When you’re sat in the car, sometimes you do feel a bit alone, because we’re in the car, we’re doing everything we can, and you don’t know what the engineers are looking at. The engineers don’t totally feel what we’re feeling within the car. Sometimes having these exchanges brings it a little bit closer together.”

Wolff said he spoke to Russell to focus his mind on finding a way past Perez on the track.

“I felt that he was a little bit stuck in the loop of being upset about the situation. Obviously, as a driver, you’re in your little cockpit and I felt that he had the pace, he just needed to drop the upset-ness and concentrate or whatever.”

Russell eventually passed Perez at the end of the Virtual Safety Car period. “He could beat him on the track and at the end it was just clever and there was a bit of confusion with the Virtual Safety Car and he just did it,” said Wolff.

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Russell and Wolff’s radio exchange about Perez

Wolff first spoke to Russell after his initial complaint about Perez:

Russell He just totally turned into me. I was up the inside, he just turned in and I had to save the car.
Musconi We’ll look into it.
Musconi So keep them within five seconds, they might get a penalty.
Russell They need to give the place back.
Musconi Let us know how the car is.
Musconi Have you got any damage.
Musconi I don’t know, I don’t think so.
Musconi Copy.
Musconi So Sainz is in.
Wolff George you can still do that on the track, even.
Musconi Gap 0.6.

After another lap behind Perez, Russell continued his complaints and Wolff spoke to him again:

Musconi Gap 0.5.
Russell Come on guys we need to do something. He just went straight on. We’re losing so much time.
Musconi George, we were not ahead there.
Musconi Gap 0.5, come on.
Russell Front wheel to rear wheel. It’s the rule if you’re attacking. I was definitely front wheel to rear wheel.
Wolff George, keep your head down, you can hunt him down.

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2022 French Grand Prix

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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22 comments on “Wolff explains radio messages to calm “upset” Russell after Perez clash”

  1. It was a daft lunge from Russell after a similarly daft move on the same car in Austria. His wheel-to-wheel racing obviously needs a bit of work, regardless of how good is he otherwise.

    Even if he was entitled to the corner (which I doubt), what did he expect was going to happen next? Either Perez bails out and cuts the chicane, in which case he’s ahead anyway, or he tries to stay on the track, holds the inside line for the next part of the corner and you’ve got a Verstappen/Hamilton/Monza scenario on your hands.

    Mercedes were right to try and calm Russell down. They just need to work on him not getting into those situations in the first place.

    1. But when you look at Perez’s line you will reconsider if that move was daft. Perez was not going to make that corner at that angle of entry and car orientation.

      1. Steven Wade
        29th July 2022, 1:31

        Perez had the corner 1st Russel pushed in was very lucky to get away with it !!

    2. Perez never had a chance at making the corner after he squeezed Russel on the apex when he saw him coming. Getting pushed off was his own fault at that point. In the end it didn’t really matter though. I would say though that many Mercedes and Hamilton fans complained about the dive bomb maneuver last year and they were ignored and it was then considered a great move when Verstappen did it to others. Either we accept they’re allowed or they’re not.

      Personally speaking I think the right outcome was probably what we got, no action by the stewards for the first instance and let them carry on racing.

      1. I would recommend watching a video replay of the incident and note the difference in line from Perez compared to Sainz ahead of him, he’s over a car width further to the left on approach trying to block Russell under braking which alone should have been a warning. All in all it was a racing incident I feel but I can see why Russell thought it was unfair by Perez, especially given how outspoken Perez has been since Silverstone about their clash.

        1. There was a good chance Pérez wasn’t going to make the corner, but the problem is that Russell ultimately left him no choice. We’ve seen similar moves at other tracks with such corners. When a defending driver skips the chicane, the stewards seem to let it pass when the attacking driver runs his car all the way to or even over (as tends to happen in Monaco) the lines at the corner.

          Wolff was right to intervene here, as the engineer probably isn’t the right guy to (basically) tell Russell to zip it.

      2. @slowmo In almost every case dive-bombing driver is at fault because they are most likely braking too late, forcing another driver off the track. That is not an overtake, that’s a crash unless the other driver takes avoiding action. Perez was ahead but coudn’t turn in, he deserved to keep that place.

        1. @ivan-vinitskyy you’re preaching to the converted, I argued the move against Verstappen on the first lap of the Abu Dhabi grand prix was a dive bomb whereby Hamilton had to take to the run off or crash with him. Unfortunately the dive bomb is now enshrined in the rules.

          “In order for a car being overtaken to be required to give sufficient room to an overtaking car, the overtaking car needs to have a significant portion of the car alongside the car being overtaken and the overtaking manoeuvre must be done in a safe and controlled manner, while enabling the car to clearly remain within the limits of the track.

          When considering what is a ‘significant portion’ for an overtaking on the inside of a corner, among the various factors that will be looked at by the stewards when exercising their discretion, the stewards will consider if the overtaking car’s front tyres are alongside the other car by no later than the apex of the corner.”

          Under those rules it’s clear Russell was alongside and in control by the apex and hence entitled to space but what isn’t clear is what is supposed to happen on exit but it does seem now that if you’re overtaking on the inside you can run your opponent off the track if they will not cede the position. For me the dive bomb is ridiculous and puts too much onus on the driver being overtaken to cede position.

          1. @slowmo I agree with you. The “clarification” is totally idiotic.
            Strictly speaking Russell met all the conditions and therefore it was his corner.

    3. @red-andy Agree with your comment.

  2. Yeah. It was really the first time we heard Russell upset behind a car fighting for a podium. Eventually he did the job but are we starting to see what Russell is really like when fighting for a top 3 places

    1. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
      25th July 2022, 9:24

      Lol. You mean a person in a high-pressure situation doesn’t act like he is on a Sunday afternoon drive in the countryside on the way to see his mother? What a shocker.

    2. Maybe not for a podium but when he took out Bottas at imola he was similarly extremely shirty and unwilling to take any blame until Toto gave him a little talk.

  3. I think he was a bit naive, possibly impetuous. He’ll learn. Wheel to wheel at the sharper end is often hard, on or over the limit and much about your experience and knowledge of the driver you’re fighting.

  4. Toto did the right thing here. Russell was completely wrong with his complaints, he just dive-bombed into Pérez. The man has got to learn a lot about wheel to wheel racing and some self reflection might be advisable…

  5. petebaldwin (@)
    25th July 2022, 10:33

    I was actually pleased to hear Russell talking like that. All the top-tier drivers in F1 have a nasty side. Schumacher, Senna, Alonso, Hamilton, Verstappen (to name a few) all had/have it. Vettel was never as fast as the rest of that list but he had the same mentality and it lead to him dominating for a period. Rosberg was another, like Vettel, who wasn’t quite as fast but had the right mentality to win a title. Bottas on the other hand, was just as fast as Rosberg but he was too nice and meant he was never a threat to Hamilton.

    The difference between fighting in the midfield in a slower car and fighting for a Championship is immense. The best click into an extra gear where they’ll do and say absolutely anything to win. The rest don’t win.

    1. Bottas was just as fast as Rosberg at times, and he was faster than Hamilton at times too. Problem is, Hamilton thoroughly outclassed Bottas. He also definitely had the measure of Rosberg but not nearly as often. Rosberg after all did set the second longest ever winstreak whilst paired with Hamilton. Did some of that follow from Hamilton’s problems, sure, but Bottas was never even close to that level of competitiveness.

    2. I think the biggest issue with Bottas was he was only faster than Hamilton at his very best and he couldn’t keep up that performance level for long enough. Rosberg was able to perform at a higher level for longer and also used mental tactics to try and reduce Hamilton’s performance level to skew thing sin his favour. Even with all that he was lucky to get his title.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        25th July 2022, 11:44

        @slowmo – That’s part of it though – how do you get to your very best and maintain that level? I know when I used to kart and I’d get spun off, suddenly I’d find an extra couple of tenths because I was angry and was throwing the thing around.

        Being fast isn’t enough to compete with someone like Hamilton or Max – you have to be absolutely on it 100% of the time. The mental strain of that caused Rosberg to call it a day after he beat Lewis – Bottas never even tried. He just showed up, drove the car and then went home.

        If you’re constantly giving it 100% (in all aspects), you’ll sometimes step over the line and that’ll result in outbursts like we regularly see from the top guys.

        1. Yeah, I think a huge part of the animosity in the title fight last year was the strain the 2 challengers were under performing at such a high level for so long. Both of them were regularly running their cars a pit stop ahead of their teammates such was the performance gap.

          I think Russell has the right mentality to win championships as he doesn’t mind rocking the boat. That being said he does temper that sometimes to avoid confrontation. It’s quite nice how some of the younger talents we have in the sport have very different personalities.

    3. CheeseBucket
      25th July 2022, 11:20

      Rosberg would dominate Bottas.

      1. I think he is underrated. If you look at the “meta” head to heads based on all his teammates Rosberg is one of the best drivers of the modern era. People say Schumacher was washed up on his return but the only evidence for that is he lagged Rosberg.

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