George Russell admits Ferrari pace at Monza caught Mercedes by surprise

Henry Valantine
George Russell in the press conference. Monza September 2022.

George Russell has spoken of the “goose bumps” he felt on the podium at Monza – where Ferrari’s surprising pace stopped him from standing higher on the rostrum.

Russell was promoted to the front row for the Italian Grand Prix after multiple grid penalties took hold for drivers in front of him, but he went on to take his seventh podium finish of the season behind Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

While third place was a good return for Russell and Mercedes, he had held higher ambitions heading into the race – despite acknowledging Verstappen and Red Bull would be near-impossible to beat.

He soaked up the atmosphere after the race but said it was far from the strongest weekend Mercedes have had this season.

“Certainly standing on the podium at Monza is a really special feeling and I’d say [part of] a driver’s bucket list is to be standing on the top step at Monza, [it] would be really special,” Russell told Sky Sports F1 after the race.

“It kind of gave me goose bumps up there, but the race was pretty uneventful. Definitely wasn’t our strongest race of the season by far, car wasn’t feeling great.

“We lost quite a bit of performance since FP1 on Friday and we don’t really know why. But I think the biggest thing was the pace of Ferrari surprised us.

“We expected Max and Red Bull to be competitive, exactly how they were this weekend and how they were in Spa. But Ferrari caught us by surprise, so that’s why we couldn’t really fight for that P2.”

Russell was pleased with how his performance had played out, despite Mercedes being further off the pace than they had been at the high-downforce layout at Zandvoort the weekend before.

He added getting another podium on such occasions can only be a positive sign for the team, despite the deficit he and Mercedes still hold to those in front.

“I think it was tough on all tyres, but I think when we look back the softs was our most competitive stint,” he said.

“We were sort of within arm’s length of the Red Bull and Ferrari at the beginning after the first 20 laps.

“Put the hards on, tried something different but it was just uncompetitive and it just wasn’t very fun to drive.

“And it was kind of just trying to bring the car home because it was very on edge, inducing a lot of mistakes.

“It’s not that fun when you can’t really lean on the tyres and push the car. But as I said on the radio on my in-lap, it was one of these podiums where we’re scoring podiums when the car’s off the pace. We’ve got to take the positive from that.”

Read more: Sebastian Vettel critical of Monza fly-by for Italian president’s ‘ego’