George Russell faced a roller coaster of emotions both during and after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as he was unaware of the status of penalties for Fernando Alonso.
Aston Martin took a five-second time penalty — given to Alonso for being out of position on the grid — during his pit stop, but Russell thought it was still to be applied after the race when he was trying to chase down the Spaniard. Ultimately Alonso received a 10-second time penalty for not serving the original penalty correctly, promoting Russell to third place before the decision was overturned, something the Mercedes driver thinks is reflective of the pace that was seen.
“It was very chaotic for us because I knew he had a five-second (penalty) for being out of his grid slot,” Russell said. “I didn’t realize that he served that during his pit stop in the safety car.
“So, after the restart, I had Lewis (Hamilton) right behind me, trying to overtake me, and I was like, ‘Guys, we need to not fight with one another yet, we need to make sure we save the tire and we have them at the end, so we can both finish ahead of Fernando with his penalty.’ They then told me that he’d already served this penalty, so I was a bit confused and frustrated with that news.
“It was only in the last five laps I found out that he might be getting a(another) penalty. That’s when I pushed like a madman trying to close that gap. But to be honest, I think Fernando and Aston just had pace in their pocket, and they look really solid at the moment.”
Speaking before Alonso’s third place was reinstated, Russell felt both the original penalty for the grid slot infringement and the potential larger one post-race were unfair.
“I think it was very harsh what happened to Fernando, in all honesty, I feel like some of these penalties have been a little bit too extreme, what we’ve seen this weekend for some drivers that we saw in qualifying and for what happened to Fernando.”
As for Mercedes’ uptick in performance, Russell concluded, “We definitely made a step in the right direction. I think, above all, we just truly maximized the potential of the car. We had a really strong qualifying, which was really enjoyable. I’m really pleased to come home in P4 on the road because I felt like that was the maximum that was possible. I was having fun out there — the car was feeling good. And we know we’ve got some more performance in the locker, in some races to come.