George Russell is still seeking his first points in Formula 1, but the Briton will be disappointed to lose out on at least a ninth-place finish in the Tuscan Grand Prix after the late race red flag cost him dearly.
The Williams Racing driver had survived the initial carnage at both the start and the safety car restart to put himself into points contention, and he was running inside the top ten for most of the afternoon at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, only for his race to unravel in the closing stages.
When Lance Stroll crashed, the red flags were flown to stop the race for a second time, but this meant that both Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean were able to get back onto the lead lap for the restart.
At that restart, Russell got away poorly and dropped behind both and behind Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and despite getting back ahead of Grosjean, he was unable to get back into the points-paying positions.
“It’s such a shame as the race was under control, and I was in P9 before the last red flag,” said Russell. “I was driving like hell, everything was stable, the tyres were good, and I was ready to bring the car home.
“With the last restart, we had some wheel spin, and this made the final stint very difficult. I am disappointed for myself and the team as I feel like we deserved that. Under normal circumstances with the great initial start we had, we would have been in the points.”
Latifi on Early Safety Car Restart Crash: “There was nothing that I could do to avoid it”
Team-mate Nicholas Latifi was one of the drivers to be eliminated in the accident at the safety car restart early on, with the Canadian getting caught out by the pack as the race looked to resume. He, along with Carlos Sainz Jr., Antonio Giovinazzi and Kevin Magnussen, were out on the spot.
Latifi had made a good start and was hoping to make a good impression at Mugello, but his race was over before it really began as he was found himself unable to avoid cars ahead of him that braked when it became clear the leader of the race had not yet made the move to restart.
“For the restarts at this track, we knew that the leader was going to go as late as possible because of how far forward the line is along with the slip stream effect,” said Latifi. “When you are in the middle to the back of the pack, the concertina effect is always much more exaggerated especially as these cars are so fast.
“I almost hit Kevin (Magnussen) in the apex of the last corner when everyone braked again, and then again it seemed that everyone went, and you are just reacting to the cars around you. The cars ahead then braked once more and there was nothing that I could do to avoid it.
“It is unfortunate because we avoided the chaos at the start and picked up quite a few positions. I was excited to see how the race was going to unfold, but that is racing sometimes.”
“We are disappointed not to have finished in the points” – Dave Robson
Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, admitted the team left Mugello feeling disappointed they had not scored their first points of the season, with Russell showing good pace throughout only to be denied late in the day by the red flag and the subsequent restart.
Robson felt the team worked hard throughout the weekend and deserved to be running inside the points for the majority of Sunday afternoon, but he knows there is still much to do to make this a more regular occurrence going forward.
“At the end of an incident packed race we are disappointed not to have finished in the points,” said Robson. “We anticipated a complicated race and had prepared accordingly, but we couldn’t quite take full advantage.
“Both cars started well and made good progress on the opening lap, running eleventh and thirteenth when the first safety car was deployed. At the subsequent restart, Nicholas was very unlucky to get hit by the cars behind as the pack concertinaed approaching the control line.
“With George, we made good tyre and strategy decisions throughout the race to get him to ninth place at the second safety car, and in a position to race Leclerc for eighth. Frustratingly the subsequent red flag lost us track position and allowed Grosjean and Raikkonen to un-lap themselves. We had a poor final stint, losing places at the restart and then struggling to overtake Vettel.
“Overall, we did a good job this weekend and worked very hard to deservedly get ourselves into a strong position in the race. We now need to refine the small details to elevate our race performance from very good to excellent.”