Water leak almost cost Russell maiden win

Steve Etherington/Motorsport Images

Water leak almost cost Russell maiden win

Formula 1

Water leak almost cost Russell maiden win

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A water leak almost ended George Russell’s race in the in the closing stages of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

Russell controlled the race at Interlagos comfortably and then had the pace to keep teammate Lewis Hamilton at bay following a safety car restart with just over 10 laps remaining. It provided Russell with his first win in Formula 1 – having come extremely close in 2020 when he replaced the unwell Hamilton in Bahrain – but Wolff says there was nearly more late heartbreak.

“I don’t know if its redemption but I think he deserved to win in Bahrain and we let him down with the car,” Wolff said. “And that’s why this victory makes us happy because he could’ve had one on the clock two years ago and he didn’t and now he has the first victory.

“And as an aside we had a water leak on the car throughout the race and it wasn’t clear whether we could actually make it to the end.

“We talked about it on the intercom, and we all agreed we are going to let him drive to the end even without water. This is on whatever was there to cool it and try to finish the race.”

Russell had not been made aware of the water leak but was told he had to race to the end with no team orders being implemented to protect the Mercedes one-two, something Wolff says is part of the team’s ethos.

“I think as a team we always stood for free racing, and we have never done otherwise unless a driver is mathematically not in contention anymore for the championship and the other one is,” he said. “We were actually looking forward to them racing on par, with the same tire and we discussed it in the strategy meeting.”

Wolff was not present in Brazil for only the third time in his Mercedes career, and it marked the first victory without him on-site. But the team principal says his absence actually made the win even sweeter, as Mercedes capped an impressive recovery from an uncompetitive position at the start of the year.

“It shows the development capability of the team and that makes me super proud, because we had situations where we felt that we understood, and there were setbacks and obviously weekends that were tremendously difficult like Spa,” he said.

“But the team never stopped believing that we were on the right trajectory whilst acknowledging that we didn’t always understand everything, and it shows the mindset and the values of the team.

“In a way I feel so proud for what we have achieved, and I feel even more proud not having been there because I feel proud for the organization that we have built with so many people that keep it up and made us win.”

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