Having momentarily thought he had Sergio Perez in his sights in Miami, George Russell was in fact some 30 seconds down on the Red Bulls on Sunday and has doubled down on his sandbagging suspicions.
Earlier this season, after Red Bull romped to their third win in three races, Russell questioned whether the team had downplayed their pace at the Australian Grand Prix to avoid the FIA intervening.
“For sure they’re holding back,” he told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast. “I think they are almost embarrassed to show their full potential because the faster they seem, the more that the sport is going to try and hold them back somehow.”
But while Red Bull insisted that was not the case, team boss Christian Horner saying Russell would “know too well from his team about those kinds of advantages”, Russell still has his suspicions.
Red Bull romped to the victory at the Miami Grand Prix with Max Verstappen pulling off a late pass on his team-mate Sergio Perez to take his third win of the championship, the team’s fifth in five of which four were 1-2 results.
Running in fourth place having overtaken Carlos Sainz, Russell briefly thought he had at least one Red Bull within his sights.
“Who is the car ahead of Fernando on the track? We’re that close to Perez?” he asked his race engineer. The reply came: “No, sorry. It’s [Logan] Sargeant on the track.”
Russell was in fact half a minute down on the leading Red Bull and 28s back from Perez, with Sargeant about to be lapped at that point.
“They are so far away from all of us,” he said after the race as per F1-Insider, “I always wonder if they drive at full power or have something else up their sleeves?
“It’s actually a shame for the sport, although of course you have to congratulate them on doing such a good job.
“Under these circumstances, fourth place is quite satisfactory: We had the Alpines under control, Carlos overtaken and the pace was good.
“Of course it would be more satisfying if I was three positions ahead but based on where we are as a team, that was the maximum.”
Racing from sixth on the grid to fourth with a swooping pass on Carlos Sainz with a song-like “that’s how we roll”, Russell denied he broke into song.
“I wasn’t really singing,” he said, “I was like, ‘That’s how we roll’.
“I maybe said a little bit too quickly because I came out of the next sector and Carlos was right behind me with DRS. So I was thinking maybe I said that a little bit too prematurely!”
But while Toto Wolff doesn’t mind if his driver decides to sing for fourth place, what he’s really hope for is a song to go along with a podium result.
“It’s not that far yet that we’re singing along for fourth place. Then maybe on the podium,” he said. “But of course it was good that he overtook the Ferrari, so you can understand that he’s a bit happy.”
Scoring 12 points in Miami on Sunday, Russell is up to 40 and sits P6 in the Drivers’ standings with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton 16 points ahead in fourth place.