Toto Wolff hints at future Lewis Hamilton and George Russell problems

Toto Wolff has suggested that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell’s working relationship at Mercedes could deteriorate in future by describing the pair as ‘two alpha drivers’ in the aftermath of the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Silver Arrows managed to secure a brilliant one-two in Sao Paulo, with Russell leading the rest of the field over the line to register the first Grand Prix victory of his F1 career.

It was also a memorable weekend for Hamilton, who fought back to claim second place despite picking up damage in a tangle with Max Verstappen during the early stages of the 71-lap contest. Wolff showered both Mercedes drivers in high praise after the chequered flag, but the 50-year-old’s comments appeared to hint at the possibility of a rift between the pair if they find themselves battling each other on a consistent basis.

“They are both alpha drivers, which is good,” said Wolff in Brazil. “We don’t want a puppy in the car. We will manage this as good as we can.”

Although there is little to suggest that Russell and Hamilton might come to blows at Mercedes as things stand, having two ‘alpha’ drivers in one team rarely works well and the Silver Arrows experienced this for themselves back in 2016. Hamilton’s relationship with childhood friend Nico Rosberg quickly turned sour when they emerged as the two standout contenders for that year’s Drivers’ Championship title, with a number of on-track tangles hampering their own efforts against one another.

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Mercedes decided to reduce the chances of another inter-team rivalry by appointing Valtteri Bottas to replace Rosberg upon his retirement after clinching the end-of-season honours six years ago, but it seems as though the Silver Arrows may be prepared to take a different approach with regards to Hamilton and Russell. Wolff previously admitted that it can get heated between the pair behind closed doors but insisted that internal competition is not always a bad thing if it helps both drivers to perform at the very highest standards.

“It can get heated because the competition is on and we allowed it, overarching that is always going to be the good character,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 back in July. “Nothing vicious, nothing underhand, that’s what’s happening between the two.

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“I’m sure behind closed doors there will be discussions but that’s what you expect from racing drivers. You don’t want to have a lion in the car and a puppy outside. Their characters are good, their personalities are good, we all know what we need to achieve.”

Hamilton currently trails Russell in the Drivers’ Championship standings by a margin of 25 points going into this weekend’s final race in Abu Dhabi, with the former needing a miracle to leapfrog his Mercedes team-mate before the season draws to a close. Only time will tell how their working relationship will develop over the next few years, with the German outfit desperate to rival the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari for titles in 2023 after being left empty-handed this time around.

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