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Wolff wouldn’t be surprised to see Russell lead opening lap in Sochi

Toto Wolff would not be surprised to see Mercedes Formula 1 protege George Russell lead on the opening lap of the Russian Grand Prix after starting third on the grid.

George Russell, Williams FW43B

George Russell, Williams FW43B

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

After qualifying second at Spa last month, Williams driver Russell put in another impressive display in damp conditions to secure P3 in qualifying at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.

The performance only added to the buzz around Russell ahead of his move to Mercedes for 2022, when he will partner seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Russell and Hamilton will start side-by-side on the grid today after Hamilton slipped to fourth place in the closing stages of qualifying.

But Mercedes F1 boss Wolff felt that P4 was “maybe not the worst of starting positions for Lewis” thanks to the long run down to Turn 2 on the opening lap and the pace of his car in a straight line.

“Probably the best position to start from is P3,” Wolff said.

“We’ve seen that last year and the years before, so P4 is not a catastrophe. On the contrary, it may even give opportunities.”

George Russell, Williams in the Press Conference

George Russell, Williams in the Press Conference

Photo by: FIA Pool

Asked by Autosport about Russell’s display and chances given he will start P3, Wolff tipped the Williams driver to potentially be leading early in Sochi.

"I would not be surprised if George is leading the race after Turn 2,” Wolff said.

“And that will be good fun to watch. As long as Lewis can make up positions, we would have the present and the future running in P1 and P2.

“But joking aside, [Russell] has shown strong performance today. He has been taking massive risks by being the first one to pit for softs, but equally where he was, probably qualifying eighth or ninth, that was the right thing to do from Williams' side and George's side.

“But you still need to bring it home and that's what he did.”

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Wolff also made note of Hamilton’s current team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, for his pace through practice on Friday ahead of an anticipated charge up the order in the race.

“With Valtteri, his pace was tremendous yesterday, the quickest long run pace on the hards that was there,” Wolff said.

“I expect a good result for him."

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