Mercedes cautious not to 'burn' Russell with untimely promotion

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the German outfit will exercise patience with George Russell rather than risk 'burning' its young protégé with an early promotion to a plum seat with the Silver Arrows squad.

Wolff revealed recently that Mercedes' choice for the driver that will race alongside Lewis Hamilton next season has come down to just two names: Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon.

The decision, expected soon, therefore excludes Williams rookie George Russell who has impressed this season despite being weighed down by the depressed level of performance of the British team.

Wolff shines a positive light on Russell but believes the 21-year-old will benefit from extending his apprenticeship with Williams, because drivers aren't awarded a learning period with Mercedes.

"I don't think you are given the possibility to learn in a Mercedes," Wolff explained.

"Because you're being put in a car that is able to win races and championships, in a high-pressure environment.

"And I think it can go terribly wrong for a young driver that has the talent to become a world champion if he's thrown into that environment next to the best driver of his generation, who has been with us for seven years.

"And I wouldn't want to burn George.

"I think it would come too early, and on top of that I try to be respectful to all contracts we sign, and we signed a contract, we knew what we were doing with Williams, and this is where he's going to learn."

Wolff compared Russell's situation with Max Verstappen's formative years with Toro Rosso and Red Bull, where the Dutchman was allowed to learn from a few early growing pains.

"Max Verstappen was given the environment at Toro Rosso to learn, and to make mistakes, and even at Red Bull was given the room to make mistakes," Wolff said.

"It's impressive to see his progression in all kinds of aspects, as a personality – there's not one bad word about Honda, only good words about his team, the commitment to the team, and that is absolutely the right behaviour of a driver, I wouldn't expect anything else.

"But he was also given the possibility, even though he's extremely talented and well developed by his environment, to learn, to settle your strengths at Red Bull, and the Toro Rosso situation."

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