George Russell not only climbed into the points after starting 11th in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he managed to secure an additional point after picking up the fastest lap of the race in the closing laps.
However, in his own words the Mercedes driver was “disappointed” with himself following the effort in Baku.
On a restart following an early safety car, Russell “made a mess” of his start, putting himself in a difficult position. Instead of fighting up the field, Russell was forced to settle for a points finish. When that was guaranteed in the closing laps, he came into the pits to make a late switch to the soft tyres in an attempt to secure the fastest lap of the race, and the additional point.
He pulled that off, but it was little solace given what could have been.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with myself today. I made a really good start and got in a decent position. I made a good move on Stroll to get past him into the pit lane but I then made a mess of the restart,” said Russell in a statement released to the media, including SB Nation. “I was defending from Lance and almost ran into the back of Fernando [Alonso]. I then ran wide and got my tyres dirty. Ultimately that’s why both Lance and Lewis got past. From there, it was line astern.”
Instead of challenging for P5, Russell quickly found himself back in P8 and hoping for a break. He did not hold back his self-criticism when he next radioed into pit lane.
“Well that was a s*** restart, sorry guys,” said the driver.
Unfortunately for Russell, he could not fight his way back up the grid, so when it became clear he was locked into the points, Mercedes made the decision to bring him in and change to the softs, to take a run at the bonus point. Russell managed to secure the fastest lap, but following the race he viewed that small victory as an offshoot of his earlier error.
“I’ll take the extra point for fastest lap but the only reason we had that opportunity was because we were in a bad position. It was close pace-wise between ourselves, Ferrari and Aston Martin and small differences can make a big change in terms of results,” said Russell. “Whether we finish P4 or P8 though, it’s far from first so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
It was a rather dramatic week for the Mercedes driver, who got into an on-track scrap with Max Verstappen in Saturday’s Sprint race. Contact between the two cars caused damage to Verstappen’s RB19, and resulted in a tense post-race chat between the two drivers.
Russell maintained following the Sprint race that he was in the clear, and that he would not simply back down from a challenge:
Despite Russell’s frustration with himself, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin was more upbeat in his post-race assessment, pointing to his race pace. “George had a really good opening lap, getting through some key cars early on. He was able to take the stop under the Safety Car but then struggled on the restart and lost a couple of places. Similarly to Lewis, he just couldn’t make a pass despite having a bit more pace so our only consolation was a point for fastest lap at the end.”
Mercedes will look to improve in next weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.