oto Wolff admitted it was a “colossal f*** up” that denied George Russell his maiden grand prix victory in Sakhir, but lavished praised on the Mercedes stand-in by insisting that a “new star is born”.
The 22-year-old led both practice sessions on Friday and was later pipped to pole position by team-mate Valtteri Bottas, but looked on track for a first race win in Sakhir on Sunday as he overtook the Finn on the first corner and opened up a five-second lead as Mercedes controlled the race before making a costly blunder.
After both drivers were called in to pit during a safety car period, a radio error led to the wrong tyres being fitted to Russell’s car and he required a second stop on the following lap, dropping him to fifth place.
The Briton recovered to pass Bottas, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon, but suffered an agonising puncture as he was chasing down eventual race winner Sergio Perez.
While Mercedes team principal Wolff bemoaned that technical issue after a dramatic race, he was evidently impressed with Russell’s performance in the W11.
“Of course, it was very emotional because if you’re in your first race in a Mercedes and you should have won it, actually, driving a monumental race, then there is not a lot you can say,” he said, per F1’s official website.
“But it’s not going to be his last attempt to win a race; it’s just the beginning of a fairy-tale that didn’t work out today, and I would say that a new star is born.”