George Russell’s W14 catches fire in first Mercedes mechanical retirement

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' George Russell retires from the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

Mercedes' George Russell retires from the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

Mercedes’ George Russell has become the latest retirement from a particularly dramatic Australian Grand Prix, with an apparent power unit failure.

Russell was attempting to storm his way back into the top three positions after an early red flag saw the early race leader shuffled down to seventh, with the British driver having climbed his way back into fourth place and latching onto Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

But Russell’s charge came to an end on Lap 18, with the Mercedes visibly slowing going through the final sector of the lap at Albert Park before the engine caught fire coming through the last corner.

Unable to dive into the pits due to having an Aston Martin on his inside, Russell drove slowly along the pit straight before coming to a smoky halt in the pit lane exit.

Climbing out of the car as he summoned for marshals to tend to the small fire under the engine cover, the pits were temporarily closed in order to allow the marshalls to recover the car.

Russell’s retirement is the first mechanical failure for the W14 in 2023 – particularly galling for Russell on a day where he had taken the lead at the start by muscling past Max Verstappen into Turn 1.

Russell joins Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc as a spectator before the one-third race distance in Melbourne, with the Monegasque retiring on the opening lap after being tagged by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll into Turn 3.

Williams’ Alex Albon also retired, following a crash at the high-speed Turn 6 that resulted in debris and gravel being strewn across the racing line and forcing Race Control to deploy the red flag.

The sole remaining Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, briefly led the race at the restart but was overtaken by Verstappen – Hamilton is currently second and just over five seconds behind the Red Bull.

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