Leading first race for Mercedes “felt too good to be true” – Russell

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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George Russell said he found it hard to believe how well his first race weekend with Mercedes was going, until a pit stop error cost him victory.

The 22-year-old was called up to the team in place of Lewis Hamilton after the world champion tested positive for Covid-19. He led much of the race until his team fitted the wrong tyres to his car when he pitted on lap 63.

That blow followed a remarkable performance from Russell, who in an unfamiliar and ill-fitting car was quickest in both Friday practice sessions and came within two-hundredths of a second of beating team mate Valtteri Bottas to pole position.

“At some point, it’s just felt too good to be true,” Russell admitted on Sunday evening. “This whole situation, getting this opportunity and coming in and qualifying second, almost on pole.

“But I need to leave with my head held high, regardless of the result. I could have been off the pace but fluked into a podium [and] even though it’s a podium, I wouldn’t have probably been as satisfied as I am right here, right now.

“Because I know that it was a well-executed weekend. Between me and my core group of engineers on the performance side, we did as much as we can. And even yesterday, I wanted to be on pole, but given the timeframe, given the car still wasn’t set up right for me, given the fact I wasn’t comfortable in the car, I was satisfied with it because I was close than I expected.

“I know that with more and more races under my belt in this car, I’ll just get stronger. So to come in at such a good level. I’m going to wake up tomorrow, obviously still disappointed, but I’ll try and have my head held high.”

Russell said the defeat didn’t hit him as hard as occasions when he’d let his team down, such as his crash during a Safety Car period in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

“The toughest moments in my career have probably been off the back of a personal mistake that has cost me good result,” he said. “Imola is a good example of that.

“I guess sometimes you just feel like everything’s against you in a situation like this.”

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2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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28 comments on “Leading first race for Mercedes “felt too good to be true” – Russell”

  1. Well, again Netflix was in the pits at Mercedes.. the last netflix visit ( germany 2019) resulted in the same complete team meltdown. So lets hope the yearly team meltdown is past so he can really show his ability’s.

    [Btw, tinfoil hat mode..]
    Wolf was very eager to compliment his business partner Stroll with the two pink Mercedes cars on the podium as a result of poor team management at his side..

    1. It seems that Netflix was actually with Renault this weekend though.

      1. @bascb They usually seem to be embedded with two teams per weekend though.

    2. Were they not with Mercedes a few weekends ago? In the Russian GP I think it was.

  2. Was fate having a laugh with car 63 being crucified on lap 63?

    1. @Witan What a coincidence, something I didn’t think about at the time as it wasn’t relevant, LOL.

  3. George’s fastest lap was 1.2 seconds ahead of the next fastest, Valtteri, and 1.4 seconds faster than the third, Checo! OK, they were newer red walls, but even so, he was passing competitive traffic for those laps.

  4. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    7th December 2020, 11:47

    I was thinking the same about Verstappen when he qualified so close to the top 2 and kept his nose clean in the first corners. It was going too smooth.

    Not to mention at the exact moment I said to myself ‘Dang, Aitken is doing great’, he hit the wall 5 seconds later. Thinking it’s going to be messed up and then be right isn’t a nice feel as it turns out.

  5. Russell matched Bottas on pace at the first go and led the race Lewis-style, despite all the problems even fitting in the car and still adapting to all the new instrumentation and equipment (including DAS). Then, on top, he immediately did what Bottas has done so little: passed his team mate (twice), later in the race moved quickly up from 5th to 2nd with some really excellent moves, and then drove through the grid up to 8th (behind Bottas) after the slow puncture. He showed virtually everything Mercedes needed to know in one weekend. He should be rightly proud, a superb performance, even down to his verbal responses to everything that happened.

    1. Agreed. The perfect audition for the second Mercedes seat. Lets hope he doesn’t screw up this weekend coming (assuming he is in the car).

  6. I’m so happy for him to be as quick as he was. Yes it would have been super nice to see him win but this setback and feeling of having something taken away from him like that will ultimately make him an even more rounded and wholesome driver.

    He’s a very respectful and good character. Hope for the best for his career

  7. Coventry Climax
    7th December 2020, 12:42

    I knew he was good, but this Russel amazed me. Obviously, we didn’t get to hear the entire radio conversation, but the calmness with wich he said he lacked power. The way he took the lead straight away, and overtook Bottas again when he came back on track behind him. His reactions afterwards.
    Does Bottas’ contract state he HAS to be behind the no 1 car or what? Bottas has to be completely gutted, being made to look like the fool – again, and worse than on previous occasions even. I’d skip the 3.0 to 9.0 and go straight to Bottas 10.0, if I were him. Not that it will be enough though, I’m afraid. Curious to hear what the excuses are this time.
    And what a monumental FU by Merc. Too bad Max wasn’t there to pick up the pieces, but an otherwise deserved win for Perez. Good luck AM, with Vettel, next year.
    Anyway, back to George: He has done an absolutely stellar job to augment his market value. My new hero for the time being.

  8. I have never been a fan of Russel, just did not care about all the hype he was getting, compared to Norris for example.

    But this weekend… Yeah, quick adaptation to the new car was very impressive, performance in qualifing even more… but that start, stint management and overtake outside VB in the middle of bumpy corner? Giving it all vs experienced teammate in the new part of a track in a “borrowed” F1 championship-winning car?

    Simply astonishing performance, no matter the final result.

    1. Russell utterly demolished both Norris and Albon in Formula 2, back in 2018. I like both Lando and Alex too (though I feel he should be back at Alpha Tauri for the time being), but up until Sakhir last weekend, they’ve always had much better cars than George in F1. Whilst he has made some mistakes, the sheer scale of his talent has been somewhat hidden by the Williams.

  9. It’s great that Russell was finally able to show the doubters how good he really is. I would argue he’s the best of the new generation. Hopefully he gets to do a season next to Hamilton still to learn some more on car development, team building and perhaps consistency a bit more. Would be fun to see Russell dominate for the rest of the decade.

    1. @f1osaurus I would put him as the second-best behind Leclerc among the new generation of drivers (Verstappen doesn’t count although he is similar in age).

      1. @mashiat No, Leclerc makes way to many mistakes. Just like Verstappen actually. So Russel is ahead of both of them.

        The last time we saw a driver with this kind of skill level enter F1 was when Hamilton joined in 2007 and immediately was in competition with Alonso. Amazingly fast, level headed, consistent and not even remotely as error prone as the others of his generation.

        1. @f1osaurus

          Should be “way too many mistakes”, not ‘to’. Also it’s ‘Russell’ not ‘Russel’

          Nice to see your spelling still needs work despite the amount of comments you make.

        2. I mean, it’s only been a few races since he crashed out behind the SC when inside the points. I’ve seen him go off in at least two other weekends this season. The guy is clearly in the talented bunch of new drivers, but saying he makes less mistakes is not true. Perhaps people don’t remember because he’s racing at the back, usualy.

          All in all it just seems you want to make all the comments you gave about the speed of Bottas and thus Hamilton in comparison not look completely idiotic.

          1. Yes Russell crashed once during a race. Leclerc crashed 3 times. Technically 4, but he was got lucky to get away with crashing into Stroll in Russia.

            Which “all the comments”? That Hamilton was 3 tenths faster than Bottas in the first Bahrain Q3?

            Russell is the only other driver even remotely on the same level of Hamilton. Of course he was slow still in his first attempt. Although he was lucky that especially Bottas, but also Verstappen messed up their laps in Q3.

          2. Russell went in the gravel in Austria as well, with a chance for points, he blew it. There was another race where he threw a promising position by going off this year, can’t recall it just yet, will do so later.

            “Which “all the comments”? That Hamilton was 3 tenths faster than Bottas in the first Bahrain Q3?”
            No, that Bottas is actually a fantastic driver but Hamilton is just so special that he makes him look ordinary.

            It’s quit clear that when Russell, talented as he is, can jump in a car with shoes that don’t fit him and a seat that is not made for him and can clearly outpace Bottas, Bottas is nothing more than an ordinary midfield driver in F1-terms.

          3. Oh yeah, Russell actualy crashed in Turkey before the race began. Pretty much the same as Verstappen did.

        3. @f1osaurus Russell has not had to contend with a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing in his career, and it’s not like he is flawless either. Styrian GP this year he was in a decent position on lap 1 and completely went off into the gravel, he recently crashed under a safety car when in the points, made a mistake in Hockenheim that cost him points last year again. Leclerc makes mistakes, sure, but over the course of a season, I have no doubt Leclerc would beat Russell, because I think on pure pace he’s quicker. His lap in Bahrain last week was stellar, he put the car where it should never have been.

          1. @mashiat Lol exactly that one blunder behind the safety car is all Russell did wrong! Leclerc counters that with crashing out completely in 3 races. Then the 2 small mistakes Russel made are blown away by Leclerc crashing into Stroll in Russia, dropping out of the points from P6 in Hungary and blundering on the last lap going from P2 to P4 in Turkey.

            There is a huge gap between being “flawless and crashing out completely 3 times (plus all the other mistakes). No one is flawless. Not even Hamilton, but Hamilton and Russel are the ones that are most likely to be at the maximum for each race while making the least mistakes.

            You think Leclerc is good in quali, but Russell has shown much more consistency in destroying his team mate in quali. Russel drives the slowest car and yet he is seen in Q2 just as often as Leclerc in Q3.

            Say they were both in the fastest car. Leclerc crashing out in 3 races would already cost him 54 to 78 points. And therefore the championship. Then add the other mistakes and the races where he is suddenly completely off the pace. It’s no contest really.

            7 poles yet only 2 wins in 2019 is what Leclerc is about. While Hamilton wins 8 races which he did not start from pole. That’s what Russell is about. Well we have to see about that still, but for Leclerc we seriously know he throws away many many races.

          2. Well putting your car against the pit entry does not seems a smart move ;)

  10. “That is almost a victory for us in that position. Or qualifying into Q2, that’s a pole position for us. That buzz I get from that performance, it’s still massive. But ultimately, winning is another level. “Probably halfway into the race, I had like an eight-second lead over Valtteri. I thought, ‘this is too good to be true’.

  11. Is everyone going to just ignore the fact that Russell’s race was ruined by his primary team and the driver who was sitting in for him?

    1. Why shouldn’t we ignore it? Crap happens sometimes.

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