Unbelievable: mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he “couldn’t wish” for a better “new team leader” than George Russell when Lewis Hamilton departs for Ferrari in 2025

Mercedes are seeking a replacement for 2025 following confirmation of Lewis Hamilton’s blockbuster switch to Ferrari; Toto Wolff has backed George Russell to step up as the “new leader” for the Silver Arrows
Hamilton stunned the Formula 1 world by deciding to switch to the Italian team just five months after signing a contract extension with Mercedes, which included a break clause after the upcoming 2024 season.
The seven-time world champion making his decision well in advance of his departure date has given Wolff plenty of time to find a replacement, a process the Austrian says is made easier by the quality of Russell.
With all the Lewis discussion, something that has not been talked about enough is George,” Wolff said.
“George has the potential to be the next lead driver in the team. He is of the generation of Lando (Norris) and (Charles) Leclerc and some of the others.
“I couldn’t wish for a new team leader when Lewis leaves, no doubt about that.
In his debut campaign with Mercedes in 2022, Russell finished two places and 35 points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, while also claiming the team’s only win of the last two years at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Russell, who will turn 26 later this month, endured a more challenging second campaign as inconsistency, particularly in races, saw him finish five places and 59 points behind Hamilton.
Russell, who will turn 26 later this month, endured a more challenging second campaign as inconsistency, particularly in races, saw him finish five places and 59 points behind Hamilton.Despite the challenging nature of the campaign, not aided by Mercedes once more failing to produce a car capable of challenging Max Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull, Wolff retains full confidence in the Brit’s ability.
He added: “We have such a solid foundation, such a quick, talented and intelligent guy in the car that we just need to take the right choice for the second driver, and that’s not something I want to be rushed in.
“I guess that a few contracts have been signed a few weeks ago that we would have looked at that could have been interesting but timing here beat us a bit.”Hamilton’s impending exit will not be the first time Mercedes have been suddenly left looking for a replacement driver.
Back in 2016, Hamilton’s then team-mate Nico Rosberg decided just a week after winning an intense title battle against the Brit that he would retire, leaving Mercedes with less than four months to install a replacement for the following campaign.
Mercedes went on to sign Valtteri Bottas, who would remain as Hamilton’s team-mate for five seasons during a hugely successful period for the team, and the process is something Wolff insists he is looking forward to.In a way, I always like change because change provides you with opportunity,” he said.
“In the same way we embraced the Nico situation, and that was equally like from one moment to the other, unexpected, I’m really looking forward to taking the right decisions with the team together with my colleagues on who’s going to be in the seat next year.
“Maybe it’s a chance to do something bold.”
And what might that “something bold” be?
Wolff was pressed on whether he might consider Mercedes junior programme driver Andrea ‘Kimi’ Antonelli for the 2025 seat, with the 17-year-old set to make his F2 debut in 2024.
“Kimi’s been with Mercedes since he was 11 and he’s been in the junior programme, and his junior career was very successful,” Wolff said.
“I think most important at that stage is that he concentrates on F2. I think if we start to spin his mind or unleash rumours in the media onto him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign.
“He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago, he’s not even 18, so I would rather not start any speculation about him going into Formula 1 at that stage.

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