George Russell: ‘Last 10 laps of Sao Paulo 100 times harder than first 60’

Sam Cooper
George Russell celebrates. Sao Paulo Grand Prix November 2022.

Mercedes driver George Russell celebrates winning the sprint with his team. Interlagos November 2022.

George Russell said the last 10 laps of his first Formula 1 win were ‘100 times harder’ than the ones that came before and knew any mistake would cost him dear.

The Brit’s maiden Formula 1 win looked about as easy as any driver could hope for up until the 52nd lap when Lando Norris’ powerless McLaren brought out the Safety Car.

Russell, who had been comfortably leading, suddenly saw his advantage over his team-mate Lewis Hamilton cut to next to nothing.

When Russell asked his team if there would be racing between the two of them, he seemed rather dismayed to hear that there would be, but he need not have worried as he was able to build enough of a gap to push Hamilton out of DRS range.

Russell would survive the final 10 laps to cross the line first, but remarked that they felt “100 times harder” than the ones that had come before.

“The last 10 laps I knew if I make one mistake here, he’ll be in DRS and who knows what will happen? I can’t afford to manage the tyres, I just need to absolutely go for it,” he said, as per The Race.

“The last 10 laps of that race were 100 times harder than what the first 60 laps were.

“I could do the first 60 laps every weekend, but those last 10 laps, the pace is so high and you just cannot afford a mistake.”

On paper, a win and beating Hamilton in the Championship standings would have seemed like a great way for Russell to start his Mercedes career, but he said he put on a brave face as he went through a run of “very scrappy” races in Singapore, Japan and the United States.

“There’s always a lot going on that is not seen,” Russell said.

“You put on a brave face every single race you go to. But we all have our good moments and our tough moments as human beings.

“And for us as a professional sports person, that often coincides with your performance.”

The 24-year-old also remarked that he had suffered “quite a lot of abuse” online which made overcoming his run of form even harder.

“You don’t try and look at it, but it’s impossible not to see,” the former Williams driver said.

“All of the things put together with bad performances is quite a tough pill to swallow.”

Russell is not the only one to target social media abuse in recent months, World Champion Max Verstappen called for change following the online abuse of Red Bull strategist Hannah Schmitz.

Read more: The biggest, best and mind-blowing moments from the 2022 Formula 1 season