Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the Sakhir GP won't be George Russell's "last attempt to win a race", insisting the Briton's fairytale in F1 is just beginning.
Russell looked set to secure a sensational maiden Grand Prix win on Sunday, the Mercedes stand-in producing a flawless drive until a double dose of misfortune derailed his remarkable efforts.
A rare pit stop blunder by the Mercedes camp in the closing stages of the race followed by a puncture just nine laps from the checkered flag twice robbed Russell of what should have been rightfully his in Bahrain, and left the Briton gutted and fighting back the tears when all was said and done.
"I saw George in his room and it was very emotional because if you are in your first race in a Mercedes and you should have won it following a monumental drive, then there is not a lot you can say," said Wolff.
"It is not going to be his last attempt to win a race. It is just the beginning of a fairytale that didn’t work out today, but I would say that a new star is born."
Morning Team. Still hurts, huh. 😔pic.twitter.com/MbmxZ58ifz
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 7, 2020
Wolff made clear from the start, publicly and in private to Russell, that the opportunity to race for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton's substitute was first and foremost a chance to learn for the young Briton and not a career-defining event. But the 22-year-old "over-delivered" by a massive amount.
"By saying that we don’t expect anything better than a top-five, I wanted to take pressure off him because the truth is he’s not in a championship fight," Wolff said.
"Our team has done it already and this is about learning, working in a new environment and having a little bit more pressure.
"We didn’t want to set expectations high and he over-delivered, and over-delivered, and over-delivered.
"He over-delivered on Friday, he over-delivered yesterday in qualifying in just a few hundredths away from Valtteri and he over-delivered today. His racing was unbelievable.
"He got off the starting line with the best reaction time in a car that isn’t built for him, that is much too small with paddles that didn’t fit his hands and he got into the lead and drove a brilliant race, and could have won twice," Wolff added.
"We learnt that George Russell is someone to count on in the future. He has all the potential and all the ingredients that a future star needs.
"In that respect, I am sad for the result that he could have had in his first race for Mercedes but on the other side, I am happy about his performances."