George Russell feels like he was robbed of victory twice in the Sakhir Grand Prix but escaped disqualification after a Mercedes tire mix-up.
Lewis Hamilton’s replacement made an excellent start from second on the grid to lead into Turn 1 and looked comfortable as he edged away from teammate Valtteri Bottas in the first half of the race. A safety car with a little over 20 laps to go prompted Mercedes to pit its drivers but a radio communication error saw some of Bottas’ tires put on Russell’s car, dropping him down the order as he had to immediately pit again. Then when climbing through the field and closing down leader Sergio Perez, a puncture forced a final stop that limited Russell to ninth place.
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“I can’t really put it into words, to be honest,” Russell said. “Jumping out of the car it was not a nice feeling. I have had races where I have had victories taken away from me. But twice! I just could not believe that. I gave it everything I had.
“I was managing the race from the start. I felt confident, comfortable in the opening laps, just managing the gap to Valtteri. Then we had the muddle-up in the pit stop. That put us on the back foot. I had to overtake, and then obviously I think we still could’ve still caught Sergio. We had such a tire advantage; the car was so quick. Gutted but incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. And happy to have had the opportunity.”
Russell revealed he called his parents immediately after the race and was cheered by speaking to them, while admitting he has made his own errors that cost him results in the past.
“That’s racing. It’s a team sport, we are all in it together. Sometimes a driver messes it up. I have once or twice this year in the Williams. Sometimes it goes the other way, and we learn from these things. It was an incredibly late call to pit, because obviously the safety car came out seconds before I came into the pit lane, and obviously we got the tires muddled up. The silver lining, I guess I got my first points in F1.”
Mercedes was investigated for the tire mix-up but due to the mitigating circumstances of radio miscommunication and Russell being called into the pits immediately to rectify the problem, the stewards opted to hand the team a €20,000 ($24,000) fine rather than the usual disqualification, meaning he keeps his points after also setting the fastest lap.