George Russell sat all the way through after the Sakhir Grand Prix. The substitute for the positively tested Corona Lewis Hamilton seemed to be heading straight for his first victory in Formula One, until fate struck twice.
“ I can hardly express it in words, to be honest. Victories have been taken from me, but twice? I just couldn‘t believe it. I gave everything I had in me,” says the 22-year-old Brit, who ended up ninth and won his first three points in the king class with the fastest round.
That was only a small comfort. Russell caught teammate Valtteri Bottas right after the start. Nothing seemed to stand in the way of a victory until Mercedes placed the wrong front tires under his car at a second stop.
That also didn’t have to be fatal, because after the restart Russell drove to spot 2 in no time. A flat tire put an end to all fairytale stories. For the Englishman then, the final winner Sergio Pérez could not bear his luck. “The car was so fast, I think we could have picked up Sergio until that flat tire. This, too, is part of racing, unfortunately. It‘s a team sport and we’ll all learn from it.”
Failed radio traffic
According to team boss Toto Wolff, the much-discussed pit stop was due to failed radio traffic, resulting in miscommunication about the tyres to be changed. He called that second stop in a safety car situation one out of safety. “You can ask the question afterwards whether that was the right decision,” says Wolff, who had to do with Russell. “He did a great job and should have won his first race for Mercedes immediately. It won‘t be his last chance to catch a victory.”
Mercedes was fined by the stewards by a fine of 20,000 euros. Normally, an offence – wrong tyres under car – can lead to disqualification in the most extreme case, but according to the stewards, there was mitigating circumstances. For example, Russell’s error was fixed after one round, which lost him a lot of time, which was also true for teammate Bottas at the stop.
See here the results of the race, the positions in the various leaderboards and the full calendar in Formula 1.