Toto Wolff hints at Lewis Hamilton and George Russell F1 clashes on the horizon

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Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has hinted he expects clashes between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell over the course of the current F1 season. The duo are team-mates with the Silver Arrows following the departure of Valtteri Bottas earlier in the year, who chose to join Alfa Romeo. Yet Wolff’s comments suggest he doesn’t expect the pair to always see eye to eye.

Hamilton enjoyed his time racing with Bottas, getting along with the Finn due to their ability to work together as a team.

That’s in stark contrast to what happened during his time racing alongside Nico Rosberg, with Hamilton often clashing with the German as they both jostled it out for the F1 title.

Russell is one of Formula One’s hottest properties, with many expecting the 24-year-old to become a leading figure in the sport for years to come.

He certainly did his reputation no damage on Sunday, finishing fourth at the Bahrain GP with Hamilton in third.

And Wolff, speaking to GQ Magazine, has hinted he sees the pair clashing due to the fact drivers often aren’t taught to work as part of a team.

“You can’t tell a man that has been in a go-kart from the age of six, having been sent out in the rain alone, that ‘now you’re a part of the team, you need to drive for the team’,” he said.

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“It’s ingrained in them to be alone out there – to be opportunistic.”

In a recent exclusive interview with Express Sport, former F1 driver Karun Chandhok expressed a belief that Wolff was taking a ‘very conscious’ approach with his two drivers.

“The biggest question heading into the season is how the Lewis and George battle will unfold,” Chandhok said.

“We’ve got the biggest regulation change in 40 years, we’ve got Ferrari on the up, but the one I’m most excited to see unfold is Lewis versus George.

“I see so many similarities with Lewis versus Fernando [Alonso] in 2007 and obviously that imploded at McLaren.

“I think the difference in talking to Toto and Lewis and George at Brackley and Silverstone [is that] Toto’s very conscious about how that played out.

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“He’s also fully aware that he doesn’t want a situation like they had with Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis, where they ended up with basically two teams within the same team and the atmosphere wasn’t great.

“I think Toto will have to work hard to manage that situation but it’s really exciting.”

With the first F1 race of the season now done with, Hamilton and Russell will both have plenty of work to do if they’re to win the F1 title.

Ferrari, in stark contrast, have enjoyed a stunning start with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr both making the podium.

And while Hamilton was unable to claim top spot, he did insist he was happy with the work they’d done so far.

“Of course, we were fortunate, but ultimately we’ve done a better job – we have better reliability,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say that’s luck. I think this is the hard work of everyone.

“It’s such a long season. It’s going to be such a hard battle, but we love a challenge – I really do enjoy a challenge.

“It is a privilege for all of us to be able to work with large teams of people who are hungry, who are focused on a common goal.

“There’s no greater feeling when you all come together and you get a result like this.”

Wolff, though, doubts whether Mercedes are good enough this year to reign supreme.

“If you look at the pecking order today it seems a very long shot to even think about being in contention for any of the championships,” he said.

“Realistically when you are third on the road you can’t think about winning it.”

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be held next week, just the second-ever time it’s been held in Jeddah.

Hamilton came top of the standings, with Max Verstappen second and Bottas finishing third.

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