George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell “gutted but proud” after “having victory taken away twice”

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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George Russell said chances to win the Sakhir Grand Prix were taken away from him twice after leading more than half of the race.

Russell took the lead from team mate Valtteri Bottas at the start. However his team fitted the wrong tyres to his car when he was brought into the pits on lap 62 during a Safety Car period, and had to bring him in a second time.

Having fallen to fifth, Russell worked his way back up to second place behind Sergio Perez. However a puncture forced him to pit again, and he took the chequered flag in ninth place.

“I can’t really put it into words to be honest,” said Russell. “Jumping out the car it wasn’t a nice feeling. I’ve had races where I’ve had victories taken away from me. But twice, I couldn’t believe it.”

Having led the race comfortably in the opening stages, Russell was confident he could have caught and passed Perez following his delay.

“I gave it everything I had,” he said. “I was managing the race at the start, I felt confident and comfortable in the opening laps, just managing the gap to Valtteri.

“Then obviously we had the muddle up in the pit stop, that put us on the back foot and I had to overtake. I think we still could have caught Sergio, we had such a tyre advantage, the car was so quick. I’m gutted but incredibly proud of what we achieved and happy to have had the opportunity.”

Russell said his instruction to come into the pits during the Safety Car period was “an incredibly late call”

“The Safety Car came out seconds before I came into the pit lane and obviously we got the tyres muddled up.”

His misfortune meant Perez scored his first victory in Formula 1.

“I just want to say well done to Sergio,” said Russell. “He’s a great driver, he’s been in F1 a huge amount of time and he deserves a victory on his score sheet. Maybe not the one from today as I feel like that was probably our one but he deserves to have this victory.

“He’s never really had the car underneath him, the car he’s got this year is great and I’m happy he’s got that chance.”

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2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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68 comments on “Russell “gutted but proud” after “having victory taken away twice””

  1. “Just washing it aside all of the helplessness inside…Pretending I don’t feel misplaced is so much simpler than change…”

  2. They definitely don’t need Hamilton for next year. Russell can do all same in this car.

    1. @regs Did you watch the race? Hamilton is clearly the only thing holding this shambles together. Mercedes a laughing stock without him.

      1. I had no idea Hamilton keeps the radio communication system working simply by shear will.

        1. It’s clearly Lewis’ telekinetic powers that pushes all the debris away, hence why he never gets any punctures…

      2. What a ridiculous thing to say @red-andy . Hamilton has nothing to do with the procedures during a VSC induced pitstop. I dunno, maybe it was sarcasm and my radar is off.

        1. I mean, I thought it was obvious, but I guess in a community where all kinds of ludicrous opinions are given with apparent sincerity, I should have known better…


          1. I’ve probably been influenced by too many YouTube comments tbh @red-andy !

          2. @red-andy Lol, very true. To be honest, though, I was thinking much the same: the one race where LH puts his feet up for a well-earned rest is the one where the well-oiled Merc machine goes to pieces.

      3. I missed a moment in previous races when he was jumping out every pitstop to change tyres himself.

    2. This is exactly the reason why they won’t let him drive the car next year. Although he is not fast enough to trouble Hamilton for wins, he is good enough to punish any misfortunes that would go against Hamilton’s way unlike Bottas. Until Mercedes and Hamilton break any record imaginable in F1, it is better to keep the team as is. Bottas is more than capable to be 2nd in the championship and not good enough to cause any troubles for Hamilton. For that reason, until the rules are changed in F1 I can’t see George in the car along side Hamilton.

      1. This is true. All you need is the best combination which can provided new records. Current one is very simple and a classic 1-2, no matter what they say, this is a Schumacher-Barrichello style. Russell would be a Rosberg at least. They don’t need to demolish current harmony. Russell will be in this team when Hamilton is out.

    3. Adrian Vakilly
      7th December 2020, 0:36

      So disrespectful. The 7x champ takes one race out and arm chair experts already doubting his value. Unbelievable.

      1. It’s the Hamilton rule. Any driver besides Hamilton wins, it’s down to hard work and talent. Hamilton wins, it’s totally because of the car and luck– or some conspiracy theory that Dan Brown would be ashamed to come up with.

        It’s stupid, but it’s been a constant whine by a percentage of the F1 fan base since 2007.

        Watching the old karting and GP2 videos of Hamilton, or his first 6 seasons in F1, should prove to them it’s not just the car, but they find some other excuse.

        Some people just cannot accept that Lewis Hamilton has earned his records through hard work.

        1. Disagree completely. The way Russel went in the car simply proves that it is not all about the driver, but mostly about the Team, The Driver is just a small element in the equation. Lewis is awesome, but there are several Drivers that are just as awesome and given the same situation as Lewis has had would be breaking all the records, just like he is.

        2. +1000

          Whatever the reason behind peoples’ hatred of him, it’s plainly ridiculous. He’s one of the best drivers the support has ever seen, and this is acknowledged by drivers up and down the grid, as well as former drivers, team principals, and pretty much anyone in the know. It is laughable to dismiss him the way they do.

        3. Hopeless doublespeak. The ‘Hamilton rule’ we’ve had to endure for years is that anyone other than Hamilton winning like Vettel is all about the car, and Hamilton winning is all about the driver.

          Just like you now.

          1. Sorry, but most Hamilton fans (myself included), have no problems admitting the car plays a part. So does the team, and so does luck.

            In fact, to win championships, you have to have the team, the driver, the car, and a bit of luck.

            To win 7 championships, to win a race every season, and take at least one pole position every season, for 14 seasons running, requires more than just luck, or a good car. Hamilton’s had terrible cars, mediocre teams, teams that weren’t supporting him (2012 McLaren, I’m looking at you), and bad luck– and he keeps winning races.

            So if you’re going to attempt logic, don’t commit fallacies and presume you understand my position.

      2. This happens to every multiple times champion with the best car. Nothing disrespectful in truth.

      3. Including Vettel and Schumacher.

    4. @regs One thing is certainly true: the crash we saw last week was nothing. There was a clossal collision of Bottas’ face and a load of egg right after Russell took the lead.

  3. George conducted himself incredibly well throughout this ordeal.

    The frustration and anger he showed was never directed at anyone specific, never to point blame or undermine the Mercedes team.
    He learnt what he could, and tried to take positives from the weekend, as hard as that would have been to do.
    He was as gracious in the “defeat” of the situation has he reasonably could have been, and yet was still human enough to show how much he cared.

    Decent lad.

    1. I thought it was nice what he said about Perez. He did everything right this weekend (apart from going long once in the box, but ok other than that!). He basically reserved his seat for Mercedes in 2022.

  4. Gutted for him. We all know he’s a star of the future but who knows what will happen then. So many others came oh so close and never managed a win. It must feel horrible to be so close and not knowing whenever you’ll have another chance ever…

    Hope he does. He raced superbly. But a Cinderella story turned into another one so thats great too…

  5. Funny how everybody feels gutted for Russel. I really don’t. I feel incredibly happy that he got to show what he has to offer. And it made me think about how maybe it really would be nice to see Hamilton getting pushed by a driver who might be able to challenge his position. That would be great for the sport.

    Russel did everything right that he had any influence over in this race. He showed pace, he had a good start, he showed he can manage his tyres well enough to increase the gap, he went well through traffic, he made a good move to get past Bottas fast to make sure he still had a chance at the win (before that puncture). And in the end he did set the fastest lap and got into the top 10 to finally claim those points.

    Also, now Mercedes really owe him one. That will come in handy. And I think the guys in the garage will bond with him very well over this as well. Sure, would have been a fairytale to win right out of the box. But he showed he has the goods anyway. And there are surely many more opportunities to come for George.

    1. @bascb I agree with all your points (specially Hamilton being pushed by a driver with real hunger), but I still feel gutted for him because of the reasons explained above in my post. He might’ve done everything right, but a first win is a first win… even if he gets to race with them next weekend, who knows if the track will suit him and the car as good as here. It might have been his only chance in a long while, maybe ever… remember how Ocon was also Mercedes’ next in line, or how Hulkenberg was F1’s next best thing…

      1. Sure, I get it @fer-no65. And yeah, we really don’t know what will happen in the future and I do remember how we all expected Perez to be a winner rather earlier than later after his stunning drive to the podium. But then we had to wait another 8 years until today. And yes, Hulk seemed close a few times too.

        There really is not a question anymore whether Russel can bring the goods though. Now that Mercedes knows that, it is really only a matter of time IMO, much like how we knew that Max would be in the Red Bull soon.

        I do think that Russel will get another change (I would say probably next week, although after this weekend, I can see Hamilton wanting do push himself a LOT to get back and avoid Russel building up even more momentum!), and probably it will be 2022, unless Hamilton suddenly decides to go and do something else next year to bring that forward.

        1. @bascb I don’t think Hamilton’s rushed to take a stand over Russell. As much as I rate George, he’s no match for a driver who at this point is just flawless. And if Russell’s opportunity is very close, it won’t be him that loses his ride in the team!

          1. Yeah, Russel is probably no match for Hamilton quite yet @fer-no65. Then again, nobody really expected Hamilton to run Alonso as close as he did right off the bat in 2007 either …

            I can easily see how Hamilton wouldn’t fancy giving Russel a lot of time to show his mettle in Lewis’ car ahead of contract negotiations!

        2. The bit I find odd is many people seem to assume Hamilton would be the one at risk if Mercedes decided to promote Russell sooner. Hamilton will leave when he is ready to. It won’t be dictated by a race or two from a promising youngster. Maybe it might shave a few million off his contract, but even that I would doubt. The idea you’d cast aside arguably the greatest driver of all time, driving at his peak, who is also an incredible marketing asset, is somewhat laughable. As yet we have little idea how Russell would cope with in a championship situation against the likes of Max over a full season.

          Bottas on the other hand, should be (and clearly is, based on his driving this weekend) very worried.

          Putting a talent from the next generation alongside Hamilton for a season or two until he decide to call it quits is what’s best for Mercedes and fans of the sport. We want to see the best. Bottas is good, but not the best. Hamilton is the very best, and I’m sure would relish a challenge from Russell. Might even convince him to stay around a bit longer.

          1. @simon999,

            One of the most sensible comments I’ve seen today.

            All Russell has shown is how well the car can work, and possibly how often Bottas underperforms. Yes it is only one race, but for a person to jump in and be straight on the pace is very impressive however you cut it (meaning its either the car, or Russell is just a superstar?).

          2. @simon999 the reason I presume people think it’s Hamilton’s contract in question is because Hamilton’s contract is literally in question, and has been. They’ve given the “it’s just a formality” so many times and for so long. Hamilton has the WDC, Merc have the WCC, what is left? I’m certain they are 100% going to sign Hamilton for ’21, but the general perception seems to be that Bottas is the only one with an actual contract with actual signatures ready to go for ’21.

            Certainly that can be bought out, or there is some kind of out clause of some kind. Heck, maybe they could put Bottas back in Williams as an exchange!

          3. I wouldn’t for a second think that Mercedes would not take Hamilton unless Lewis himself does not want to race anymore @simon999, @neiana. That doesn’t mean Hamilton might be a bit uncomfortable seeing how well Russel is doing a job.

            It is far more comfy for him to be the clear leader with Bottas in the other car than having a time like Vettel had at Red bull (Ricciardo coming in) and Ferrari (Leclerc), Daniel faced at RB (Max) or what Alonso got at McLaren with Lewis himself. THAT is the reason why Hamilton would want to get back in the car IMO.

            I think he would be easily up to the task, but I am not sure he would LIKE to be pushed like that. Russel would not just settle into being no. 2 for ever. And off course it fits Mercedes handidly in the coming contract negotiations, but that is rather less of a worry I think.

          4. If Merc decide to promote Russel sooner it can only be Ham’ that moves on, Bottas has a contract for 2021, Ham does not.

    2. Kind of agree in so much as today’s drive was a bit of triumph for Russell regardless of where he ultimately finished, but the win would have been a dream result and he really had it all in hand. Bottas has a serious problem on his hands – he just doesn’t cut it in races. Starts, wheel to wheel, tyre management, attitude, are all things he regularly gets shown up in by Hamilton and again today by Russell. Bottas is quick in qualifying but so was jarno trulli. It won’t win him any titles (unless they’re still doing that poles trophy??)

      1. Exactly @frood19.

        Sure, Bottas will tell the world about the situation at that stop. But before that he had already had a meh start that lost him the lead, had a weak firsst lap, seemed to be doing worse than Russel with tyre management in the first stint (Losing out on managing tyres vs. Hamilton one can get, and take as a thing to work on, but having Russel show him he can do it right away?) – and yeah, he had been cutting the gap, but we don’t know how much Russel was just managing by that time.
        And Russel showed in his pass on Bottas (I don’t hold Bottas pace at that moment against him – he was on ice cold and old hard tyres and who knows how well or bad his brakes were doing after the fire during the pitstop) how we would want a driver to get on with things when stuck behind a slower car and in with a shot of the win. Something Bottas hardly ever has shown us in his last few years.

        All of those things make really strong cases for Mercedes maybe leaving too much on the table if they keep Bottas instead of going for Russel.

        1. What gets me annoyed with Bottas these days, is that he now never seems to admit his poor starts are his fault or own errors are the issue. Instead he hides behind ‘bad luck’

    3. @bascb Well both really, gutted for Russelland yet being thrown back twice allowed him to show skill and determination in repassing Bottas and others up to 2nd, and then making his way back through the field to the points after the puncture. So he showed:

      1. He can start well and grab the lead from the ‘wrong’ side.
      2. Lead a race, opening up a sound gap from Bottas in second, deal with technical problems while setting good times still.
      3. Restart under the SC well.
      4. Come back from a setback (team screwn up) that put him behind his team mate, pass him well, then make a couple of excellent and brave passes into 2nd.
      5. Come back from another setback, this time making his way quickly though the field.

      Really, a superb performance despite little to show for it.

      1. That’s what I thought, to have those setbacks gave George the chance to show that he’s not just someone who can do a good start and lead from the front of the race with the fastest car. He can also come back from setbacks and deliver clean wheel to wheel racing under pressure.

        Absolutely top performance, brilliant.

        Much as I’m gutted for him, if anyone deserved a win instead it was Checo. Spun out on the first lap by Leclerc and comes back to win. Red Bull would be crazy not have him instead of Albon next year.

      2. The one thing Russell did not do well is the restart from the Virtual SC. It seems tricky and Bottas gained 2 seconds on Russell from his better restart. But Russell also showed another key attribute, a willingness to ask for help even during the race and is prepared to learn.

    4. @bascb

      Russel did everything right that he had any influence over in this race.

      And Hamilton would have extended his influence over the pit stop, argued until it was too late for Merc to do anything about it, then won the race. George doesn’t have that kind of pull and it would have looked bad on him, even if he did win. Hamilton had to earn that, too, which took him years and championships.

    5. @bascb

      Agree with what you’ve said. I’d love to have seen George take the win, although Perez was a worthy winner in my opinion.

      It was mission accomplished for his first weekend in the Mercedes team.. he narrowly missed out on pole against a pretty formidable qualifier. He showed he is better than Bottas on Sundays by taking the lead and then looking in control of the race. Then he shows some amazing grit and overtaking ability with his charge back from P5 to P2. After the puncture he showed a great amount of maturity as well. He checked all the boxes… and it’s now only a matter of time before he gets put in that Mercedes seat.

      Hats off to him.. I’ve always rated him pretty highly but he’s made me a fan after this weekend’s performance.

  6. Mercedes will have all the information about Russells performance today, on a good proportion of a track where Lewis Hamilton raced, and won, last week to make comparisons between the two.

    When you consider the situation with shoes too small for Russell and a cockpit not made for him, it all points to a fantastic debut in a front running car despite the eventual result. It was such a rollercoaster of a race… I’m gutted as he looked like the winner.

    If Russell had won and Bottas was down the field though, how would it affect the psychology of Bottas who has his last chance to beat Lewis next year and needs to get enough points for the team?

    It is like something has broken within Bottas, I really hope he finds his best form for the next race and above all, has some better luck.

    1. I don’t think Russel is a match for Hamilton yet. However he has shown Bottas up well and good! Bottas looked like he was fighting the whole race while Russel looked comfortable even after the messed up stop! Bottas can not be going to bed happy tonight while Russel can be happy with his flawless performance.

  7. I wonder if Hamilton x Russell would be as entertaining as Alonso x Hamilton was. I’d be cheering for the Kimi of the situation -maybe Verstappen or Ricciardo could pull it off.

  8. russel just exposed lewis seemingly able to beat bottas more than lewis could. passing bottas so easily as if he was in a ferrari.

    1. Indeed, while Russell getting away at the start was more expected, I also found the sheer ruthlessness of Russell’s later overtake on Bottas to be a benchmark which really elevates him into another category. Yes he had the better tires, but two Merc’s tangling by his mistake would not have looked good on his resume. But his flawless, cool and ruthless execution was for me an inherent statement of intent to anyone watching that he is clearly not easily impressed. Hamilton with his experience and speed might have taken pole to begin with, but I cannot even imagine Hamilton pulling off a more bosslike overtake. Statement.

      1. To be fair.. Hamilton has pulled a couple of great overtaking moves on Bottas in the past and vice versa.

    2. Weren’t they on different tyres?

      1. @john-h
        Don’t let facts get in the way of this pub rambling nonsense section of the internet.

      2. Exactly. But you’re spoiling the entertainment!!

    3. @f1fan-2000. 100% agree – The different tyre argument Etc can be used on almost every occasion throughout history where team mates have passed each other…there is always an excuse/reason, just depends who you support.
      Good business = Merc go with Russel and Bottas in 2020, save a fortune on salary and still win both Championships.

  9. In hindsight Mercedes should have just left Russell on the wrong tires and let him finish the race. I think he would have gotten more satisfaction from crossing the line first and then getting disqualified than what actually ended up happening.

    1. If they hadn’t pitted they would have been at risk of being swallowed by the pack as Bottas was (after the stacked pitstop debacle he ended up on the same tyres he’d been running since his first pitstop)

      1. I said leave him on the wrong tires as in Bottas’ set of mediums that were mistakenly installed during the pitstop. He wouldn’t have been disqualified for staying on his old set.

  10. @xenomorph91 look I’m not a Hamilton apologist but when Merc does what Merc wants, they frequently make mistakes. Hamilton has, more than several times, basically told the team “f no” (much nicer) and did things his way, the right way, the winning way.

    Merc is absolutely lucky to have such a dominant car. If any other team was anywhere near them, their own screw ups would be costing them.

  11. With all due respect Russel can drive the merc alright, but it never had 10 second over second place, as Perez and even Stroll did when they lead their races respectively, yes George had misfortune on the pit stop but under safety car was not so bad, overdriving the car wheels even after warned by pitswall and ending up with a puncture was debatable in part his fault, but he never had the win in the pocket with Bottas right behind and less after chasing but behind Perez, I think George meant that the car had the potential to win the race, but we already know that.

    Perez on the other hand went thru the field, the whole field, in an old engine, sometimes been not English is harsh on drivers rating !

    Was a fun race !

  12. What is the point of having Valtteri in the second M-B for next year? He will be making up the numbers as an already beaten man. Might as well hand the trophy to Lewis here and now.

    If Toto is the racer he claims to be, then George should be in that car. Light the blue touch paper and stand well back, F1 will be entertaining again.

    1. Agreed and interesting that Toto didn’t absolutely rule it out yesterday and neither did Russell

  13. Maybe russel shudnt have gotten that slow puncture. And he shud have chose to stay out. If ham can win on 3 wheels and if Russel is as good as people are now making him out to be (on hamiltons level or better?) then he should hav carried on with the puncture and bring the car hme on 3 wheels.

    1. Not comparable incidents. Hamilton had to crawl around half a lap of Silverstone after having no warning of his tyre being about to fail. Russell had a lot further to go and they knew the tyre was going down.

    7th December 2020, 10:22

    There is no room for Bottas in Mercedes anymore. Period.

    1. It has got to the stage, when it would be simply cruel – a bit like the situation Massa found himself in when Alonso joined Ferrari

  15. We cannot judge a driver over 1 race. Yes Russel is good. Did most right. But its over the long haul thst will define tbe great ones. We have short memories. Bottas was quick in the williams back in the day. But he is obviously succumbing to the pressures of the expectations heaped upon him being lewis partner, driving a merc and especially this weekend where every1 was saying he has to stamp his authority . It was clear to see this weekend. He seemed to be over driving the car. Making unnecessary mistakes. He seemed to fold under the pressure. Which he has been doing for quite some time.

  16. Russell’s radio outburst could well have sealed his fate when it comes to replacing Bottas for 22 as the team obviously don’t want feisty and emotional in a wingman

    1. Russell will be in the Merc start of 2021 and be team leader by the end of 2021.

      Liberty have lost money hand over fist, the sport is in financial peril.

      Daimler will overrule Toto. Toto is already on the nose with them.

  17. It’s not the car…

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