Toto Wolff: Mercedes Canadian GP win was a long shot or a dream

Mercedes started on pole but finished third in Canada after a series of errors by George Russell

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Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes could not have won the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix through George Russell, although they did dream about it for one brief moment before Max Verstappen took off into the Montreal sunset.

The 26-year-old started on pole after setting an identical time to the Red Bull in Saturday’s qualifying and despite leading through the initial rain, began to lose speed when the track began to dry up as Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris started to hone in.

On Lap 21, his time as the lead car came to an end when Norris quickly cleared his compatriot with DRS just moments after passive Verstappen, whilst Russell made a mistake in the final chicane and had to bail out across the kerbs, dropping to third in the process.

Then when the track began to dry after the crossover transition to slicks happened, Russell managed to get into second on Lap 50, until he quickly made a mistake the following lap and with that, saw his chances to win fade away although Wolff said it was already unlikely by then.

“A victory was maybe a long shot,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after the race. “Or a short dream when George was on the hard and catching up, showing strong pace.

Race winner Max Verstappen Second placed Lando Norris of McLaren and Third placed George Russell of Mercedes celebrate on the podium after the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Race winner Max Verstappen Second placed Lando Norris of McLaren and Third placed George Russell of Mercedes celebrate on the podium after the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“Maybe for a second we thought about it, but you mustn’t be too greedy. But we need to take the positives. The car has made a real step forward, we are bringing bits, and the development direction is true.”

Across the race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Russell made three crucial mistakes that cost him position on Lap 21, Lap 51 and Lap 63 as the final error from the Mercedes saw him go wheel-to-wheel with Oscar Piastri into the final corner.

The pair made contact as Russell turned in and the McLaren held his line, which cost him seconds to Verstappen and Norris. Even Lewis Hamilton managed to get past for the final podium spot, until Russell claimed it back on the penultimate lap as he raced his teammate to the line.

Despite that, the Austrian team principal didn’t think his mistakes had necessarily cost him the win because his driver’s own talent got him there to begin with.

“On one side,” Wolff added to Sky Sports F1. “He had brilliance then on the other side, maybe one or two we could have avoided.”

George Russell of Mercedes leads Max Verstappen at the start of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
George Russell of Mercedes leads Max Verstappen at the start of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Drivers understandably gutted by result

Third and fourth is Mercedes‘ best result of the season in a Sunday race and the team should feel upbeat after their upgrades appear to have slingshot them into contention with Ferrari and McLaren in their recent two races.

Yet despite that, Russell was not happy with his 12th career podium and Hamilton was not happy with fourth, as the latter called it the worst race of his career, which is a feeling Wolff understands, although he called for some perspective too.

“I think when you finish third and fourth,” Wolff said to members of the media, including Total-Motorsport.com. “With were have been coming from, then it’s good, it’s a positive race. Clearly third and fourth is much better than we had previously in the in the last few races, so, that’s good.

“But I think most drivers saw that there was more was up for grabs. We could have maybe had gained a position or two and that’s why there is a kind of negative sentiment that prevails.

“But if you would have given them third and fourth before the weekend, they probably would have taken it.”

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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