However, passing Norris was another matter altogether, with leader Sainz aiding his former McLaren team-mate with DRS in order to defend against the Mercedes drivers.
It all came undone for Russell on the approach to Turn 10 on the final tour of the circuit, where a brush with the outside barrier sent the young Brit off track and out of the race, but Wolff believes the mistake will benefit Russell in the long run.
“I’m sad for George because he delivered a 99.9% fantastic weekend and a split-second lack of concentration, clipped the wall and it happened,” he told Autosport.
“What I said to him is I’d rather have this happening now, and the learning is there, than when we race for a victory or for a championship. That’s going to be engraved in him, this mistake.
“We must not forget it’s his second year in a competitive car and he was really giving it all he had. He was pushing hard in order to win the race.
“At that stage, the only way of overtaking Norris and maybe Sainz was to just not leave a millimetre on track.
“Lando kissed the wall and he was behind him when he hit harder, so that cost him the race but if you push like this, things can happen.
“I think George is of course an out-and-out racer and is devastated. But what I said to him was, we played for third place and not a win.
“It is a steep learning curve and with such situations, a second year at Mercedes, it is not going to happen again when it is for a victory or a championship. But obviously he is very upset.”
Russell, who outscored Hamilton during their first year together at Mercedes in 2022, along with securing a maiden F1 victory in Sao Paulo, will have to dust himself off quickly, shrug off the disappointment and go again this weekend in Japan.
The last-lap incident leaves Russell seventh in the Drivers’ Championship standings with 109 points, 12 ahead of Norris in eighth and 14 behind Leclerc in sixth.
The Mercedes driver believed he was “half a car’s length” from securing victory in Singapore and that his mistake put “a shadow on the whole weekend.”
That weekend in Singapore – excluding the last-lap crash – also saw Russell miss out on pole position by the smallest of margins, 0.072s off Sainz’s time, leaving him plenty of positives to draw from in order to fight at the front once again in Suzuka.