George Russell admits missing out on his first points in Formula 1 was “heartbreaking” after finishing 11th in the Tuscan Grand Prix, although he believes F1’s red flag regulations unfairly compromised his chances.
The Williams driver was running in ninth place after Lance Stroll crashed heavily, with the incident bringing out the red flag to allow for the barrier to be repaired. However, at the standing start restart Russell dropped to the back of the field and while he overtook Romain Grosjean, he was unable to hunt down Sebastian Vettel ahead, or get within five seconds of Kimi Raikkonen who had a penalty.
“It’s heartbreaking — the whole team has worked so hard,” Russell said. “An amazing position — P9 was under control, sealed, was matching the pace of Seb and Charles (Leclerc) behind me on the same-life tire … that red flag just threw it all away, really.
“We made a really poor start off the line — don’t know why yet, procedural wise everything was spot on — having Kimi and Grosjean getting an extra lap to warm the tires up, they both got mega launches, which didn’t help things. But nevertheless just bitterly disappointing because we deserved it. It should have been us. Two red flags in one race. Ridiculous.”
Russell believes the red flag regulations need revising to ensure drivers can’t get a free pit stop and completely change the complexion of a race when it is suspended.
“The biggest thing is the tire change in the pit stop. These guys are getting free tire changes — we were on a good tire strategy, tires were great for us. Suddenly people can box and put whatever tires they want and get a free stop. I was ahead of Charles, he didn’t box, he lucked into the red flag, then he’s ahead of me and can just put a new set of tires on. I lose a position to him under the red flag.
“If they’re going to do this more often they need to work on a couple of rules — you shouldn’t be allowed to have a free tire change, it’s part of the race. You’re in the race, you need to stay on the tires you were on at the time being. People planned their strategy around a normal race, not around races that are getting two red flags in.”
While Russell bemoaned his luck, he received some words of support from the driver who beat him to 10th place and the final point last Sunday.
“I felt a bit sorry for him because I think he drove really well,” Vettel said of Russell. “Especially before the last restart he was faster than us, he was more consistent, he managed his race well — I could see what he was doing.
“It will come for him, the poor soul! I think he really deserved a point. Obviously if I let him by on the last lap because I thought he fought probably harder than anyone else, then if I go to court I’m probably hung! But I feel a bit sorry for him because he really fought his way up to the points and didn’t get the result that he deserved.”