Russell: Congrats Perez, but that win was ours

Date published: December 6 2020 - Jamie Woodhouse

George Russell PA

Robbed of victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix “twice”, George Russell admitted it wasn’t a “nice feeling” to jump out of the Mercedes afterwards.

Russell was making his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir GP as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement after the seven-time World Champion tested positive for COVID-19.

And while qualifying was a day to remember for Russell who put the W11 P2 on the grid, the race started out even better as he picked off team-mate Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1 to take the lead of the Sakhir GP.

Russell was able to stretch his two-second lead to one of around eight seconds by the time he and Bottas had both made their first stops, but soon Russell’s race began to unravel.

First a botched Mercedes double-stack meant Russell had the wrong tyres fitted, forcing him to return to the pits, and just as he had returned to P2 and had race leader Sergio Perez in his sights, Russell was forced to pit again due to a puncture.

While understandably devastated Russell was able to make his way back up to P9, scoring his first points in Formula 1.

“Can’t really put it in to words to be honest, jumping out of the car it wasn’t a nice feeling to be honest,” he told Sky F1.

“I’ve had races where I’ve had victories taken away from me, but twice, I just couldn’t believe it.

“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 obviously we had the muddle up in the pit stop, that put us on the back foot I had to overtake.

“I think we still could have caught Sergio, we had such a tyre advantage the car was so quick, gutted, but incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and happy to have had the opportunity.”

Russell, as he himself admitted, hasn’t been flawless in 2020 and so he wasn’t about to criticise Mercedes for the calamity in the pits.

“That’s racing, it’s a team sport, we’re all in it together,” he said.

“Sometimes the 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 in to the pit lane and obviously we got the tyres muddled up.”

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Sergio Perez was the driver to benefit from Mercedes’ errors as he picked up the first win of his Formula 1 career.

And while Russell said that a victory was long overdue for Perez’s CV, he thinks it shouldn’t have been the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.

“I just want to say well done to Sergio, he’s a great driver, he’s been in F1 for a huge amount of time and he deserves a victory on his scoresheet,” said the Briton.

“Maybe not the one from today, I feel like that was probably our one, but he deserves to have this victory and he’s never really had the car underneath him, but this car he’s got this year is great and I’m happy he’s got this chance.”

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