Mark Webber’s Suzuka story adds weight to George Russell illness theory

Henry Valantine
George Russell

George Russell finished on the podium just twice in 2023.

Mark Webber used an example from his own career to back up the idea from George Russell that his illness may have improved his pace.

Russell finished the season with a flourish after a podium in Abu Dhabi, which in turn confirmed Mercedes’ second place in the Constructors’ Championship.

While he has called it a “scrappy” season before, it was a positive end to the year for the Briton, and he did it through combating illness at the same time.

Mark Webber shares his own illness story to back up George Russell claim

While Webber was unwell for different reasons altogether than Russell heading into the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix, the Australian went into the weekend feeling somewhat fragile.

He ended up putting his Red Bull on pole on Saturday despite his earlier antics in the week, which he mentioned to Russell over the weekend.

“Just been feeling rubbish for two weeks now, so a long season,” Russell explained to Channel 4 about how he has been coping with illness.

“Just coughing loads, I had fever last week in Vegas all week sleeping about four hours a night for the last two weeks, but pace is probably better than ever. So maybe that’s the secret.”

On punditry duties during the interview, former Williams and Red Bull driver Webber chimed in at that point: “I had one of the biggest nights of my life actually with our fellow colleague at Suzuka on the Tuesday night, and I banged it on pole, so it’s not impossible.”

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For Russell in particular though, that illness proved to be something of a hindrance behind the wheel on Sunday, with the sheer amount of effort needed to drive a Formula 1 car.

And with how tightly the drivers are strapped into the cars and the potentially claustrophobic feeling of wearing a helmet, his ailments were a constant nuisance for the whole race in Abu Dhabi, despite taking a podium finish.

“I’ve had a horrendous cough that stayed with me all week and in the car,” Russell told media including PlanetF1.com after the race.

“I was coughing every single lap but when you’re strapped into the car, you can’t breathe.

“You can’t take a deep breath in to get the cough out, so it was just constantly with me.

“It was pretty, pretty miserable. So, I was pleased to bring it home when I saw that chequered flag.”

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